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WRITTEN PODCAST RECAP: Colt Cabana’s “The Art of Wrestling” w/ Larry Zbyszko on why he started wearing karate gear, the reason he carried nunchucks with him, how he met Bruno Sammartino, Fabulous Moolah damaging his car (#353)

The Art of Wrestling with Colt Cabana

Release Date: May 31, 2017

Guest: Larry Zbyszko

Recap by: Josh Coulson

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Newsworthy items

    • Colt thinks he may have wrestled on Jack Swagger’s first independent show in the United States since he left WWE.
    • Larry Zbyszko planned to retire from wrestling in his mid-40s so that he could play pro golf.
    • Zbyszko never intended to be a color commentator and only got the job after Jesse Ventura was fired.
    • Larry played golf on some professional mini-tours during the 1990s.
    • At the age of 16 Larry crawled through a hedge in Bruno Sammartino’s garden so that he could talk to him about becoming a wrestler.
    • Larry used to always carry a gun in his bag because of how much heat he had with the fans
    • The idea for him to wear a karate ghee was Verne Gagne’s and was a part of a way to compete with everybody being characters in WWF at the time.

Subjects covered (with timestamps)

0:00- Sponsors and plugs
0:21- Introduction
8:46- Song of the week
11:38- Interview begins
25:52- Getting into wrestling
41:17- Verne Gagne and the AWA
51:46- Indy wrestling/book/women
1:05:52- Close of show

Show highlights/rundown

Colt opens the show in the usual way by introducing himself and listing all the ways in which you can support the show.

He reveals that this week it’s a return to normal and that judging by the numbers, the fans aren’t too keen on the WrestleCon shows from the past two weeks.

He details his experiences doing improv comedy in Chicago recently and that he was on an improv comedy podcast also.

He then reveals that his interview today is with Larry Zbyszko and that it was odd because it was in front of a small live audience of sorts.

Colt talks about how he doesn’t think Larry knew who he was at the time of the interview despite the fact they worked together at Ring of Honor.

Colt thinks he may have wrestled on Jack Swagger’s first independent show in the United States since he left WWE.

He introduces the song of the week, “Tag Team” by DJ Martini.

Interview with Larry Zbyszko

Color commentary and professional golf

Colt and Larry begin by talking about food habits, and Cabana asks him if he eats the way he does because of years being on the road. Larry says he just doesn’t want to spend all his time preparing food and eating now that he’s 65.

Colt tells a story about being in Japan with Nick Bockwinkle and how he would still do his workouts well into his 60s and 70s and Larry says he’s the same but has had to reign it in. He talks about Arn Anderson and Michael Hayes blowing up to around 300 pounds in their old age.

Colt asks whether his life now is how Larry envisioned his retirement being. He replies that the money he made in his prime isn’t anything like what wrestlers can make now, but also that things like house prices are a lot different now compared to back then.

Larry’s plan was he would retire from wrestling around 45 and then play pro golf.

He then talks about how those plans changed when WCW called him to come and do color commentary after they fired Jesse Ventura and they loved him. He credits it to being blessed with the gift of gab.

He talks about how announcers don’t get enough credit and that they’re the ones who have to bring a match to life.

Colt asks if Larry remembers Ron Trongard, but he replies that while he was wrestling he didn’t pay much attention to the announcers. Colt agrees that most people do that.

Larry talks about how he had a great ten-year run as an announcer and that it meant a whole new generation of fans got to see him and learn who he was.

He talked about how he would get in the ring once in a blue moon to keep the old style of wrestling relevant.

Larry discusses how the new generation of wrestlers at the time like Lex Luger would use an abundance of clotheslines in their matches, and himself and a few others would bet on how many certain wrestlers would use in their matches.

He then says that William Regal was the exception at the time and that’s why he wanted to get in the ring with him. He recalls a great match they had where they didn’t throw one clothesline and explained to newer wrestlers that you don’t need them to have a good match. Colt talks about the present day equivalent being super kicks.

Colt then circles back to Zbyszko mentioning he planned on playing pro golf. He says that he’s played it all his life and that when he became an announcer he had more free time so could play it a lot more. He got pretty good at it and played on some professional mini tours.

Larry says that it was exciting but he was just short of being good enough to be able to win money that would make it worth his while.

Colt asks whether his wrestling career got in the way of him getting that little bit better, but he just replies that there were simply people who had dedicated their lives to it and hence were better than him.

Meeting Bruno Sammartino and becoming a wrestler

The conversation then shifts on to both Colt and Larry being from Chicago, and Cabana finds that odd as most people consider Zbyszko to be from Pittsburgh. Larry tells the story of being in Chicago until he was about 13, then moving to Pittsburgh and that was the first time he saw wrestling and got hooked on it.

Larry talks about TV back then being based around good always overcoming evil, and that’s what he saw in wrestling at the time too and is what made him strive to become a wrestler himself.

He talks about how all through school he thought what they were teaching him was a waste of his time, and that becoming a wrestler would keep him out of the 9-to-5 reality that he grew to hate.

Larry talks about his dislike of corruption in society, and Colt tries to relate that back to wrestling.

Zbyszko discusses how there should be a statue of Vince McMahon, talking about how he risked so much to make WWE what it is today.

Colt asks when it was exactly that Larry decided he needed to get into wrestling. Zbyszko says that Bruno Sammartino quickly became his hero and also that he saw amateur wrestling in school and college as a gateway into professional wrestling later on. He would even do judo and jiu jitsu to help with that.

He says that he hated college and the only reason he went was because it meant he didn’t have to fight in Vietnam.

He tells a story about his parents cornering Sammartino one day and he promised that he would help Larry if he got a degree as a backup.

Larry then tells a story of when he was 16 he found out where Bruno lived and would drive by his house.

He says that one day he saw Bruno by the pool in his garden and decided to crawl through his hedge so that he could go and talk to him. Bruno was very nice to him and that started a friendship between the two with Larry working out with him in his basement.

As they were working out Sammartino would teach Larry about the psychology of wrestling despite the fact he hadn’t even gotten in a ring yet, because Bruno was impressed with his amateur background.

Larry talks about how he said in his Hall of Fame speech that meeting Bruno in that way almost felt like a dream because he was his hero.

“It was almost like a dream. I’m walking through the rabbit hole, through these hedges and there was my hero. The next thing I knew I was in the ring, did the biggest thing ever for those days with my hero. And then down the road in the Hall of Fame Bruno was there again introducing me, it was almost like he opened the door that finally let me out of that dream, and it was kind of a cool ending.”

Larry then talks about some of the other wrestlers who helped him at the beginning of his career, but it was Bruno that took him under his wing. He says that older guys didn’t want new people in the business back then but he was okay because he was Bruno’s guy.

He talks about how wrestling was a lot different back then, and the lack of contracts meant that if you didn’t draw a crowd you didn’t make any money.

Colt asks if Larry thought that having Bruno teach him the way that he did meant that he missed out on learning things himself but he says no, it didn’t.

Wrestling for Verne Gagne

Colt asks about Larry’s first ever match. Zbyszko says the first thing that hit him was that he quickly realized he was only in trunks in front of 3,000 people all fully dressed. That thought made his knees go weak and he got very nervous.

The match itself was against an older guy who Larry said would be referred to as a jabroni nowadays and that the guy probably fell down quickly so that he could get the match over with.

Colt asks about wrestlers all being characters over in WWF and whether he ever considered that at the time, but he says by that point it was too late and he was already established as Larry Zbyszko.

They then discuss a time when Larry actually did wear a karate ghee to the ring and he says that happened by accident and was Verne Gagne’s idea.

Larry then says that because of fans hating him so much he would always carry a gun on him back then. Once security tightened up he had to get rid of the gun and got nunchucks instead. He would warm up with them backstage and after Verne saw him using them that’s when he got the idea to have him dress in karate gear.

Larry says that it was easy for him to get over back then because all the fans believed he was a heel. Colt asks if he was like that in real life and Larry says not at all.

Verne made a few other wrestlers into characters at the time and Larry says that was his way of trying to compete with what Vince McMahon was doing.

Larry says that because there weren’t contracts it was easy for Vince to take all of the other company’s top guys.

Colt asks about Verne’s last ditch attempts to compete with Vince. Larry says that he had the right idea to make people into characters, but the problem was he was doing it with wrestlers who were already established as something else.

Colt asks about the WrestleRock Rumble. Larry reminisces about being a part of it and talks about the song and some of the other top stars who performed on it.

Larry recalls wrestling in the Tokyo Dome for the AWA belt and that it was a really big deal at the time.

Today’s indy scene, Larry’s book, and women’s wrestling

Colt asks if Larry has ever tried promoting and he says no because he knows better.

Larry talks about how amazed he is that there are so many indy shows now and that wrestlers will kill themselves for next to no money. He says it’s the weirdest thing as back when he was a wrestler they didn’t believe in doing it unless they were getting paid, and that there was no such thing as indy wrestling when he was breaking in.

He talks about how people go out there and risk breaking their necks every night on the off chance that one day they’ll make it to WWE.

Colt then tells Larry that despite the fact he doesn’t really read, he read his book. Larry says that he felt like he had written Moby Dick, then when it was published it wound up being really short. There’s one chapter in there that is only one sentence long. The chapter is based on wrestling and love, and how the two don’t mix.

Larry explains he married his first wife too young and how it was a strain because the wrestling business meant he was never home, plus being on the road all the time meant there was too much temptation.

Colt asks about women wrestling back when Larry was at the height of his career. Zbyszko effectively says that back then the women were an attraction. They would travel together and come to each territory for about a month at a time before leaving and returning a year later.

Colt asks whether the women would get treated the same as the guys in the locker room and he says yes that they’d become buddies with them just like anyone else in the business.

He recalls Moolah hating him and that one time she lowered a garage door on the hood of his car.

Larry sums up by saying whether you’re a man or a woman, you have to be crazy to do what they do.

Zbyszko says that his only vice is smoking and talks about how when he was young even your doctor would be smoking as he took your blood pressure.

Colt asks Larry if he has any internet presence, and he replies that he does not. He then shows off his out of date phone and that all he uses the internet for is to send emails, watch YouTube, and play poker. He says he has a Twitter account but doesn’t use it because of people pouncing on everything you say.

Colt then thanks Larry for being on the show and ends the interview.

Close of show

Colt talks about the interview saying that Larry sneakily dodged the question about Vince McMahon taking over and dominating the wrestling world.

He then ends the show in the usual fashion with his plugs and upcoming events.

Review (6/10)

The broad spectrum of guests Colt manages to get on the show never ceases to amaze me, and this interview with Larry Zbyszko is further proof of that. It also always amuses me when Cabana has a guest from wrestling’s past and pre-warns us, the listeners, that he doesn’t think the interviewee actually knows who he is. There are genuinely parts of this show where I don’t think Larry actually realizes he’s talking to a fellow wrestler. The show is an amusing and interesting listen as Zbyszko tells stories of how he broke into the business all the way up until his WWE Hall of Fame induction. A good listen for older fans wanting to reminisce or younger fans wanting to learn.

About the writer

Josh Coulson is a journalism graduate from Bristol, England. He has been a pro wrestling fan since the age of 10 and truly fell in love with the business during the build to WrestleMania X-Seven, citing the rivalry between Austin and The Rock as what really got him hooked. Other than wrestling he is a keen soccer fan and a long suffering supporter of his local team Bristol City. You can find him @BristolBeadz on Twitter.

For more, check out last week’s recap of The Art of Wrestling

 

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