This interview was originally posted here on October 6, 2004… and we thought it fitting to re-post it after learning the sad news (full story at SLAM! Wrestling) that “Bad News” Allen Coage died suddenly at 5:30 this morning in Calgary at the age of 63. Allen, who has been recovering from hip replacement surgery that he underwent three weeks ago, was rushed to the hospital, having complained about chest pains, and Dave Meltzer at WrestlingObserver.com has reported that Allen suffered a heart attack.
Rest in peace, Bad News…
THE BEAUTIFUL THING: ONE ON ONE WITH BAD NEWS ALLEN
How are your knees?
Well, I had both of them replaced in ’99, so that’s when I retired.
Do you want to sit down?
No, I’d rather stand. I’ve been sitting down upstairs.
Okay. People in the States remember Bad News Brown from WWF, and people in Canada remember Bad News Allen from Stampede, but not everybody knows that you got your start in New Japan. Who were your trainers there?
Antonio Inoki and a guy named Yamamoto. Actually he did most of the work with me, he taught me a lot of stuff, too, when I first started in 1977.
Was it your Judo background that got you in there?
Yeah, that’s what got me in. Actually, my coach he had a friend over there who worked on one of the big newspapers. They were friends with Inoki, and New Japan was looking for new talent, and they figured that with my background from the Olympics and everything, that I would make good recruit. So they recruited me.
Can you compare training for the Olympics to training for wrestling?
Training for the Olympics is totally different; I mean you train six, seven hour a day. When I trained for New Japan Pro Wrestling it was like a vacation for me.
Really? I’ve heard stories of people leaving the NJPW Dojo the first day because they couldn’t cut it.
Oh yeah, I told somebody this story just the other day. Saito, he was a guy who used to wrestle in Stampede also, with the blonde hair? Well, he started like three months after I did, and he came in with two other recruits, and it was summer time, and the place was like iron around the walls, it was hot. They used to close all the windows and it was like a steam bath in there, working out. I remember Saito puking his guts out, and the other kids were crying, and they were beating them with the bamboo sticks because they are really tough on you over there during training. The other two, they took off that night and ran home, but Saito stuck it out so I figured he be good.
What about wrestling a Japanese style as opposed to a North American style?
North America, at that time, it was a lot of show business, where in Japan you really worked hard. The matches were harder, you worked harder, you had to be in good shape or you’d wind up getting hurt.
You ended up in a program with Inoki.
He was great to wrestle with. He didn’t have to do anything; just walk to the ring and people went crazy. He was like a god over there. Even to this day, he still comes to the ring; he’s retired from wrestling but he just comes to the ring and the people go crazy.
So that would make your job easier?
Oh, real easy, real easy. If you work with one of the young guys over there, the people don’t do anything, they just sit on their hands. You’re in there with Inoki, and you just look at him, they go nuts.
Were those the biggest crowds you wrestled in front of?
Actually, the biggest crowd was in Pakistan. I wrestled Inoki in front of 75,000 people. All men. That was something else, really something, because the people liked him. He wrestled the Singh brothers over there, who were big amateur wrestlers, and one of the people he wrestled, I think one of the uncles or something, he broke his arm, so he was like a legend.
No women in the audience?
That’s a Muslim country, so they could come, but the guys would always go get tickets for their buddies and leave the wives at home.
Have you ever wrestled Jushin Liger?
We were in Iraq, just before the first war there, and you know how he has those horns? He went to do that dive through, and he got one of the horns caught. It was funny to see, really cartoonish, and all of the wrestlers were falling about the place. Two weeks later, the war started there.
There’s a legend about Andre the Giant losing control of his bowels
That’s a true story. I was in Mexico City, and we used to wrestle at the Bull Ring every Sunday, and it was always just packed. I think it used to hold around 20,000 people for the bull fights there. That afternoon, Andre had diarrhea, I don’t know what he was eating or drinking. We got into the ring, and he shot me into the corner and gave me that big bum rush that he’d give you, and his bowels just went. I mean, it went all over my chest an everything. The smell! I fell out of the ring and I was trying not to puke. I went back to the locker room, and you had to walk up these long stairs. As I was going up there, people were like Wow! What is that smell? Yeah, that’s a true story.
One other thing I’ve always wondered, how did your family react to Roddy Piper painting himself half black?
My family didn’t like it, I didn’t like it, but him and Vince thought it was a great idea. I figured that if he was going to do that he was taking his life into his own hands, plus I didn’t like Piper anyway, he was a racist, so I figured if he got beat up for it or whatever, he deserved it.
What were they going for there?
I have no idea. I don’t know if it was just to make fun of us, I don’t know what they were trying to prove.
I was looking forward to reading about those stories in your book. Is there any news about that?
Well we got started, and it got stopped, you know how it is. The hardest part is we were trying to do it so people would send in stuff, memories, what they thought of me. Of course with these wrestlers you can’t get nobody to do nothing. They were, Oh yeah, we’ll send it in. And that would be the end of it, you wouldn’t hear from them again. So, it’s still sitting on the shelf now. May get done one day before I die.
I’d like to read it. I guess you’ve read Dynamite Kid’s book.
It was a great book. He told it like it was. I always liked Tommy, and to me, pound for pound, well, you see his influence on the wrestling business today, all these young guys they want to emulate him. Benoit.
I think Benoit has achieved it. A lot of other people are trying.
A lot of them are trying. I always felt that, pound for pound, of all the people I worked with he was the best ever.
I’m a big fan of the Dynamite Kid. He always kept it real in the ring. Where would you strike a balance between making real and protecting your opponent?
It’s really hard, because in this day and age everybody wants to do a bunch of things and they don’t care about their opponent, whereas before we actually took care of each other. Now you get guys getting seriously hurt, neck injuries, you know. Career ending injuries are happening to them because their opponent only cares about looking good, about doing a million and one spots that don’t make any sense. They’re not taking care of their opponents and they are not taking care of the fans.
My opinion would be that people are relying more on spots because they are not telling a story in the ring.
That’s the problem, they got away from telling a story and everything is a high spot now. Before you would know who the good guy was and you would know who the bad guy was, and just through their work they would tell a story in the ring. Now, it’s totally confusing.
Is there anything that can be done to turn that around?
Yeah. Shoot Vince McMahon (laughs). I don’t know, you’d have to get someone with big money that’s willing to go back to the old style. You’d have to spend a lot of money and just re-do it because you’re fighting against this guy, but I think it could be done because he’s not doing as well as he used to. They came to Calgary, they used to come to the Saddle Dome, but last Sunday they came to the Coral and they only drew 1300 people. The Corral holds 4000 people.
That’s surprising, because Calgary is such a big wrestling town.
The people are just fed up with the story lines. They don’t make no sense, people don’t believe in them, you know.
It’s interesting to hear that some wrestlers feel the same way fans do. I wanted to ask you earlier about Chris Benoit winning the title at WrestleMania. For me it was a moment that justified years of putting up with stupid story lines. For you as a wrestler, do moments like that have any impact?
I always felt that he should have won it years ago. He was the future of the business, but just because he wasn’t seven feet tall, you know Vince has this thing where he wants all those big guys in there. I think you should have people in there who know how to wrestle, who know what they’re doing. That’s what the people want to see, that match with him and Kurt Angle, I would have paid to see that. It was terrific, you know. Yeah, his time was long over due.
One last question, where’d “Beer-Bellied Sharecroppers” come from?
I just thought of it one day because I remember Blassie, he was my manager when I was in the WWWF for Vince Sr. and he used to come back and forth to Japan with me, I used to call him The General, and he always had his Pencil Neck Geeks. He told me, If you can get a handle on something that’s uniquely you, people will always remember you. I thought about it and thought about it. I was yelling at some farmer one day, I was working for Stu, and the farmer had a big belly and everything.
So he might have actually been a beer-bellied sharecropper?
Yeah, and I just kind of fell into it, you know, everything fell into place.
Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to me.