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Sonny Rogers Interview - 2003














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Reprint of an Interview by Wayne Pettit from chicagowrestling.com
















                              Sonny Rogers Interview
Whether he's a "Lifeguard" or "Mr.Gaylord Fontaine" or the
beloved "Mr. TV Guide," Sonny Rogers has been a major influence
in the modern era of professional wrestling in the Chicago area.
Many of the top guys that came from this neck of the woods were
either trained by him or have been trained by people that he himself
had broken into the business and mentored. Some of the people that
he mentored are Danny Dominion, Ace Steel, Adam Pearce,
Rockin Randy Ricci, Iron Mike Samson, the Twin Turbos and
Jimmy Blaze. There are obviously many more, as Mr.Rogers has
spent the better part of over 2 decades shaping the industry in a
low key fashion. One of the main characteristics of the Stay Out,
later Shaboom Night Club was this man , world reknown throughout
the wrestling business. As such, many of the biggest name wrestling
personalities, from the WWF, WCW, and all other groups, regularly
flocked to visit this man whenever they were in town.
A few years ago, a match between Sonny Rogers and PL Myers was
scheduled to be Sonny's last match, so many area wrestlers, among
them Eric Priest and Ryan Boz, came as a show of respect.
While it wasn't his last match after all, the stipulation that the
winner would gain 99% control of PCW was symbolic in that Rogers
no longer was a decision maker in the company he helped found.
A gentleman by the name of Wayne interviewed Sonny Rogers after
this match. Here is a transcript:
 
 
Q: How do you think the match went?
SONNY: Very good, you know PL caught me...he caught me in the
bridge of my nose...which is a very hard target to miss. I came too
and got my sense back within a half a minute. It was really good,
I was really impressed with PL, he is pretty crafty.
 
 
Q: What did you think of the reception you received tonight?
(There was a long-standing ovation for Sonny, everyone was
clapping and chanting his name)
SONNY: I am just so appreciative of everything that happened
tonight, I just could not believe the turnout that we had, the ovation.
You know, when I announced that I was gonna be leaving Chicago
a couple weeks back, I figured yeah...it's the old utility infielder
for the Chicago Cubs, seeing him leaving baseball or you know I'm
retiring or getting traded or getting put down in the minors...
I thought it would be like "Oh well the best to ya Sonny" ya know
real cordial...but tonight surprised me, the reception that I received
tonight. I am glad that Michael Jordan decided to play last night
instead of tonight...I would have stole his heat. (Laughing)
 
 
Q: What do you think you will miss the most about Chicago and the
wrestling scene here?
SONNY: I kind of feel like Donny Osmond after 10,000
performances of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"
when he was in Chicago years ago. lol. I'll really miss Chicago style
pizza because just about every major city I have been to the pizza
never has that Chicago or even New York style zest to it, I'll really
miss all the great people I met in the nearly 13 years I worked at
Shaboom nite club in Stone Park including my ex boss
Mr.Bill [Robinette] and of course my other co workers through the
years Diane, Jason, Chrissy, Ron Day, Jennifer and Frank Lancelloti,
Frank Hooper, JB Ritchie, Bill's wife Darleen, Bobby [Hawkeye Cody
Hunter-WCPW] as well as some of the great people I met from the
bar and entertainment industry as well as so many of our regulars.
Of course I'll truly miss all the great people I have met in my 23
years of participation on the Chicago wrestling scene. All of my
buds at PCW, Rick Knight, Jimmy Blaze, John Burke, Flyboy, Wally
Wilde, Rodney, PL Myers, Rockett, Garland, Teddy Rak, Samantha
Hart, the Bentons, Brian Shirley, Eric West, Bryce, Ringmaster,
Grin, Lollipop, the Gravediggers, Mark Madison and so many other
great people that were or are still a part of PCW like Dave Storm,
Nick Headford, Trevor Blanchard, Lou Tuffano Ego, Chris Styles etc.
Of course I'll miss great people like yourself Wayne, Al Lagatolla,
Tony Farinella, Starman, Dino Dynamite, and so many others that
have been a part of cw. com can't forget Fuji and Karen, Joey
Maurello, John Spahn. I'll really miss the post show get togethers we
used to have atShaboom nite club, Ballyhoo, and Ringside sports bar
in Elk Grove. I had many a hangover to prove it. I'll still be following
the Chicago rasslin scene once I get settled in Arizona and have my
pc up and running. I'll miss the adrenaline rush of being in person and
seeing the continued growth and success of PCW. To be honest Wayne there are a few people I won't miss, I'm sure those same people will probably tailgate my moving truck to make sure I cross over the Illinois State line. lol. I'll still be coming back from time to time if there is the need for the good old mystery tag team partner, the special enforcer referee, or I need a fix of Chicago pizza, Maurice Lennel cookies, a few lap dances at All Stars, some Eli's cheesecake and of course I will attend one of the New York Yankees vs. Chicago Cubs games when the Yankees visit Wrigley Field in June for interleague play and naturally the PCW anniversary show. I know there are scores of names that I didn't mention that I helped break into the biz or met in my 23 years in Chicago rasslin forgive me if I didn't mention your names but I'll miss you guys as well.
 
 
Q: Looking back, is there anything that you wish you did differently,
or wish you could have changed somehow?
SONNY: The year 2002 was a very tough year in my personal and
professional life in regards to the fire at the PCW Stone Park training
center that occurred in December of 2001 plus the loss of all the bars
and night clubs in the Stone Park 6am hours. It was a very tough court battle between the club owners and the village of Stone Park but in August the village of Stone Park won and from that point on all the bars had to close at 4am taking away over 70% of all the business of the bars in Stone Park. For the longest time I was in a state of denial hoping that my boss Mr.Bill would pull a rabbit out of the hat and keep Shaboom afloat but Basim Esmail, the owner of Shaboom had Bill's hands tied and would not give him any advertising or promotional budget around November. Tommy Hanson, the owners of Tommy's Mardi Gras in Stone Park sold his club to a few guys who I think are part owners of Nocturnal nite club downtown. Basim basically used Mr.Bill as a scapegoat for all the problems of shaboom... lost business, lower revenue, etc. Basim, in the final months we all worked at Shaboom was trying to promote the club via the internet making contact with all of these bogus promoters "Star 69 promotions " with their claims being that they filled clubs like White Star lounge, Circus, Drink, in Chicago with these wet t-shirt shows and fashion shows only problem was many of the clientel attending Shaboom as part of Star 69 were underage. Bobby, Mr. Bill, and yours truly had them all U-turn. Basim wanted them to stay. A premises check by the Stone Park police or the Cook County Sheriff's police would have all landed us in jail. Next came another Basim internet discovery on
the internet - Reggae and Caribbean music. Bill, Bobby, and me seen
through these guys in about 5 minutes. The Reggae company were doing a scam gimmick at the door with these complimentary passes which the reggae promoter pre-sold on their website. Bob and myself are trying to tell Basim about the gimmick, I'm using hand puppets trying to explain it to him while Bob is trying to draw stick figures and using the John Madden magistrater trying to explain it to this moron owner of Shaboom. Right over his head. A week before Xmas Basim had 4 armed rent a cops waiting for Bill on a Wednesday nite when Bill showed up for work. Basim was right behind these 4 Barney fifes and fired him. Later on that night Bob, Myself and Jason, one of the other bartenders all walked out. Bill was there 23 years and he deserved better. Basim who owns a video store, 4 liquor stores, a shopping center, a Rolls Royce silver shadow, a zimmer and mg kit car,
a 5 bedroom 3 car garage house in Naperville hired his video store manager to take Bill's job. Kind of like Joe Torre coaching the Dallas Cowboys. Payback is a mother because a few weeks ago Basim started a major remodeling project on Shaboom, only one teeny little problem - he never obtained a building permit from the village of Stone Park. Basim from what I heard was going to originally spend about $7500 on this remodeling project. Let's just say a "few concerened citizens" contacted the village of Stone Park and within a half hour the Stone Park clerk Linda Tucker and the police shut Basim down until he had blueprints (est.$5k) and complied to the current
2003 building codes in Stone Park. Electrical, plumbing, handicapped
accessibility ramps and walkways, possibly fire sprinklers, he had the place in shambles when Stone Park shut him down. A few people we know that are contractors and carpenters estimate that this could cost basim $50-75K. Hitting one in the wallet is always the best payback. Sorry to driftaway from the story but my lease at my apartment was up for renewal in February and the thought of making a change came to mind throughout the latter part of 2002.
 I had a few offers from other clubs to bartend but I passed on them. If there is one thing I regret, I didn't do was complete college and get my teaching degree and become a phys. ed. teacher but as history can tell you I got so rapped up with wrestling I thought the ride would last forever. It also put a strain on relationships I had with past girlfriends. There were times I posted on cw.com when I read a post or read an interview that really pissed me off, and I addressed the situation in a rather unorthodox way on the boards or via my own interviews. I later accepted the fact that you can't please everyone
and to try to lighten up a situation by showing some wit and humor on a follow up thread of a post. The majority of those are armchair workers and/or bookers who don't comprehend the hard work many of us put into this business. When you ask them to come by to the various wrestling schools to get into this easy money and simpleton business they all of a sudden are busy for the next 52 weekends of the year. I'll always have respect for a worker whether he is good, fair, or bad because they had the courage and desire to pursue a dream. We can after all autograph an 8x10 picture of ourselves for
a young fan whether our match was good, fair, or so so. Can't say I know of many Dominick's bag boys that autograph an 8x10 or a piece of paper for a fan after working an 8 hour shift nor factory workers, fry cooks etc. I often thought of the time when I left WCPW in late 1992 if I should have stayed because Sam Decero's business skyrocketed and to this day is still the leader of the pack. As I mentioned I helped Sam start WCPW in 1987 but after the
years I spent going into business for myself in 1993 I had no regrets plus there would have been so many great people I wouldn't have had the opportunity to know and become life long friends. As with leaving WCPW as well as leaving Chicago I have to steal a line from Julie Andrews from " the sound of music" God sometimes "closes a door but opens a window" - things happen for a reason.
 
 
Q: What is the best advice that you could give to those who are just starting out in the business?
SONNY: The best advice I can give to anyone getting in the wrestling biz is what my mentor Bob Sabre told me in 1980. I have and always told anybody looking to get in the business, always pursue your back up goals if wrestling is not in the cards, go to college, learn a trade or profession, etc. Because one injury is all it takes to snuff out the dream. Always have something to fall back on. The late NWA promoter Sam Muchnick told me in 1980 that wrestling takes up to 5 years to get yourself established, gain your experience, make your contacts, etc in my opinion that hasn't changed. Today there are virtually on
every street corner pro wrestling schools, many who are unfortunately run by people that don't have a clue themselves what they are doing. They do not teach respect, protocol, the history of the business, the tradition of the business etc. The end result is that most of these trainees who did not do there homework as far as checking out professional wrestling schools end up retraining at a more
reputable school. Time and patience is the biggest virtue that most trainees don't have anymore, if they are not in the WWE, Japan, Europe in 9 months to a year they get flustered and usually are in the professional wrestling boneyard, just another statistic. When a trainee sometimes tells me after a short amount of training "this isn't fun anymore" my reply is this isn't a friggin episode of the Bozo show with clowns, jugglers, the grand prize game, etc. Mental toughness
and discipline is a vital part missing today in a great many trainees everywhere. I posted last year sometime on cw.com the business is comparable to working on a cotton plantation during the civil wars - most of the promoters are the so called masters while the talent are the hired hands or the slaves. There is no pension in this business, there is no 401k profit sharing program, there is no injured reserve,
disabled list, or paid sick days. There is no health insurance available in rasslin, there is no union representation to handle grievances, money disputes, benefits, etc. The chances of making it to the WWE and making the monster payday are nil. Better chance of hitting all the big game or powerball lottery numbers. Jim Brunzell, T-bolt Patterson, Jesse Ventura, and a few other workers in the past
tried to organize the wrestlers but they all went down in a flame of glory. The WWE's "tough enough" shows on MTV come off as a glorified "American Idol" show. I may be wrong but that's my opinion. The Vince McMahons, the Vince Russos, the XPW's, the Japan companies may give you that big money run but they have to feel that you are going to make them a boatload of money, get
TV ratings, get people to buy the pay per views,etc. If you are not producing the revenue, ratings, etc. for any company, said talent is either sliding down the totem pole or out of a job or both. Professional wrestling is the biggest cut throat business out there, if you have a few friends that you can confide in that's great everyone else is an acquaintance or associate. Another thing there is bad advice out there every place, ex associates whether they come from PCW, WCPW, LWF, WWZ, MCW, etc. They will promise you a condominium at Lakepoint Towers in gold coast Chicago, they will tell you of the great $200 payoffs, all the opportunities that await for them in the WWE, NWA,TNA, etc. just to get you to leave whatever company you work for. I won't mention names but we had a few that left PCW for
the so-called elevator ride to the penthouse suite, after being recruited by ex disgruntled and or unhappy associates. Most of them after a few months wanted back with PCW, but they made the mistake of doing an exit interview with cw.com and other various wrestling websites saying "#### those jaggoffs @ PCW", I'll be working every weekend and be in the WWE 365 days from now"...
"They were holding me back", "if you're not an investor you don't go over" etc. When they try to return to PCW it makes it difficult for us to welcome back talent that left on bad terms. Time sometimes heels wounds, so you can never say never. Bob Sabre and some other old timers including Baron Von Raschke always said when leaving a company always thank the person and don't shit talk them as
you walk out the door because you never know what tomorrow brings. Never burn a bridge because no matter how good or bad an experience has been show dignity when leaving and chalk it up to experience. There were several times I wanted to tell a few promoters to take a flying #### @ a rolling doughnut and to pound sand up their ass, but you always should move forward. Another thing I'll tell a trainee is to seek advice from a person who knows the wrestling business, not a money mark nor an Internet wrestling mark. Study video footage of workers from the past and present. Condition, condition, condition, you don't have to be Arnold, Michael Clark Duncan but look athletic, look like you're a wrestler.
 
 
Q: Will you be involved with the wrestling scene out west? There were a couple of messages on the board that seemed to indicate there might be some opportunities out there to work with some guys.
SONNY: I received an email from my partner Jonnie Stewart and he asked me if I was interested in doing an AWA event for him and Dale Gagne in Casa Grande, AZ. in March. Casa Grande is about 40 miles from Chandler, AZ, which is where I'll be. I conversed with the Navajo Kid who I believe runs a company in the Phoenix area.
Navajo kid and some of his trainees and/or workers in his company were at the WWE Raw in Phoenix a few weeks ago, they were the "judges" during the Triple H and Scott Steiner pose down segment on RAW. Vito (Airborne) mentioned an event I think in Tempe, AZ. on Feb.5th that he will be on and invited me to attend, I'll try to make the event if at all possible. Another trainee from my past Adam Pearce asked me to contact him once I get settled in. Adam currently resides in San Diego. I'll play it by ear as to what happens I'll have to see if I fit into their plans on a regular basis or part time basis. I'm not certain if the Arizona and California companies are into the old school style of the biz. I'm kind of particular who I work as well because of the risk of injury and the fact that I'll be 41 in March, the recovery time is a tad longer than when I was in my 20's. I did a WWF Superstars TV taping in Phoenix in the 80's at the old Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. The Veteran's Coliseum is to Phoenix to what the International Amphitheater was to Chicago. The Vet Coliseum is still in use but the
America West arena is the main arena for major events. the America West arena is next to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Bank One Ballpark. Justin Roberts has been very helpful as well in regards to getting me hooked up with some of the local companies. I know Nick Bockwinkel and Scott Casey run a training center and events in the Las Vegas area. I'll shoot them a call or email as well.
 
 
Q: Did you ever think that the wrestling landscape would change as it has, with the business being so exposed and such?
SONNY: Through the years,Wayne, from the many books and other publications I have read in regards to professional wrestling, professional wrestling always had many former workers, promoters, referees, etc. expose the business. It goes back to old time promoter Jack Pffefer when he was squeezed out of the business by a group of promoters called the gold dust trio, Billy Sandow, Jack Curley, and I think Strangler Lewis. Jack Pfeffer was so distraught that he went to the National Enquirer, Time magazine, and People magazine of its day in the 1930's called "The Police Gazette." In a front-page expose Pfeffer gave away the whole business and business suffered for a long time to come. Until around that time, Pfeffer pro wrestling events were attended by a very aristocratic audience. Men would wear tuxedos ladies evening gowns or other formal wear. In the 1940's
and 50's pro wrestling went through a rebirth with Gorgeous George, Buddy Rogers, Lou Thesz, Baron Leone, Argentina Rocca, and many others taking it back to big money business. The evolution of television played a big part of the resurgence of wrestling. For years the masses always had the perception of what we did was entertainment but people would flock to the arenas and to their television sets and suspend disbelief. There was always a former worker here and there that would expose the biz but professional wrestling carried on. I do remember that around 1981 or 82, I think there was a man that came out of Verne Gagne's AWA training camp
   - his name was Laurent Soucie. Very good amateur background, clean-cut, good athlete with loads of potential. I worked him on an AWA TV. I know he worked Tom Stone on a few houses as well as Tony Leone. I remember Laurent Soucie went over Heenan on a house in I think Green Bay, and by the pop of the crowd you would have
thought Hulkster finally beat Bockwinkel for the AWA belt. But then all of a sudden Laurent Soucie vanished, as if he were only a poltergeist. A short time later a 2-part article appeared in the Milwaukee Journal, which featured Laurent Soucie exposing the professional wrestling industry. I'll honestly say and I know many others to this day will say as well, why? Was he an undercover reporter trying to get the goods on rasslin? Nobody really knew why Soucie did what he did it, seemed like Bockwinkel, Brunzell, Santana, and the boys never talked about it - as if he never existed but none the less business remained strong in Milwaukee with the AWA as well as surrounding spot towns. In 1985 came the infamous Dr. David Schultz slap on ABC 20-20. Reporter John Stossel who confronted Schultz about the bogus happenings of the business courtesy of ex worker Jim Wilson. Again the wrestling business was still on fire with the WWF, the NWA and every territory drawing huge business. I have to really say in just my opinion that in the 1990's till present time all the magic has been exposed. It's a combination of Paul Heyman and ECW, Vince McMahon and the WWF,
Eric Bischoff and WCW, the internet, TV super-stations such as TBS WWOR, USA, TNT. For example, Jimmy Garvin's career ending injury as told to the fans who watch the syndicated AWA TV shows all through the Midwest, only to turn on NWA WCW Georgia championship wrestling next Saturday and seeing a healthy Jimmy Garvin in
action. The ridiculous angles that have been played out on Raw is War, WCW Nitro, ECW, etc. that deal in necrophillia, sex, blackmail, exploiting alternative life styles, etc. The 3 years of the WWE's tough enough on MTV, showing the whole universe how we do it. Backyard wrestling, the insane bumps by Mick Foley, though I like Mick very much, he fell into a trap where he had to top himself every pay per view or RAW show. I mean how the hell do you top going through a cage onto the mat and then having a steel chair fall off the cage and bust his mouth open, not to mention taking a bump off the top of the
cage onto a table, gimmick table or not. Of course the youth of America see this and decided to jump off the roofs of their homes, do shows in their backyards using barbed wire, broken glass, fire, gasoline, etc. God bless some of these young entreprenauring kids who knew how to market these home made videos to the late night viewers of comedy central and e-tv. They made their pot of gold. As I stated earlier in this interview as well as the one I did with Al last year, professional wrestling schools are like karate and tae kwon do dojos. Every corner has one, not only in Chicago but everywhere. For years,professional wrestling was treated like a military operation: you become a private, then a corporal, sergeant, officer, etc. and earned your respect to your peers. Today though the business is exposed there are still a large number of people in the biz who still cry bloody
####ing murder when you tell them you need to put so and so over.
 
 
Q: In the coming years, what do you think will happen with the business as a whole?
SONNY: It's going to be interesting to see what 2003 has in store for the WWE and NWA-TNA. I read on 1wrestling.com a number of weeks ago of Triple H, Lance Storm, and William Regal talking candidly about WWE tv shows "tough enough", "WWE confidential", and some of the bizarre story lines on raw and smackdown contributing to the declining television ratings, the drop in house show attendance, and smaller pay per view buys, etc. being the major factor of what has hurt the professional wrestling business. As I mentioned on the previous question Wayne, the MTV WWE tough enough shows the whole universe how we do it, throwing working punches, kicks, how we
bump, how we sell, etc. The WWE confidential show on several occasions talks candidly about storylines, angles, and other items that help further expose the wrestling profession. When Steve Austin left the WWE last year for whatever reasons, the WWE confidential
show dedicated a whole one hour show of Vince and a few other office and talent of WWE of talking about the Austin walk out, mentioning his constant on again off again feuds with Vince, the WWE creative team, etc. It used to be for years if the Ultimate Warrior or any other big name talent left the WWE they were never even acknowledged ever again on WWE television programming, as if they never existed. Certain talent were either hired and/or elevated to fill the void. Other then the time the WWE had the fake Diesel and the
fake Razor Ramon when both Scott Hall and Kevin Nash jumped to WCW in 1996 that was about the only time I could ever recall the WWE acknowledging past talent. The only purpose it served was to remind the TV viewers of the Monday night rasslin wars was that the real deals Hall and Nash were on Nitro down the dial. Professional wrestling is going to have to go back to its roots to the formula that worked for decades and decades of good vs. evil and focus on what is on the marquee, WRESTLING. The 2-hour infomercials for the next pay per views are going to have to be cut drastically. If both WWE and NWA-TNA continue to do house show tours across America, then the live non televised non pay per view events at the Allstate Arena, the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the St.Louis arena, the Conseco Field House in Indianapolis, the New Orleans arena, the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, etc. have to be something special for the local fans to see. No watered down shows without Triple H, The Rock, Stone Cold, Scott Steiner, etc. When was the last time anyone seen a WWE
interview where Triple H, Angle, Lesnar, etc. talked about the upcoming house show match in Chicago, in Los Angeles, in San Francisco, in Detroit, etc ? Again, it gets back to the roots of the business, make a local show or even a spot show for example the University of Valpariso special. Do some major title changes on the non TV, non ppv shows to give the fans proof that they could very well see Scott Steiner take Triple H's WWE Title if they attend. The majority of the fans who follow wrestling know that the payoffs to all angles and story lines climax on pay per view. I have this horrid feeling that one nite on a live RAW or even a NWA-TNA ppv the viewers will witness a tragic death due to the high risk moves and the continuing game of the boys pushing the envelope as well as the office probably encouraging it. It remains to be seen what role the NWA-TNA will play in 2003 as a major player. The track record of Vince Russo is not good considering his run in WCW. It's possible that Russo, the Jarretts, and the Panda corporation that owns NWA-TNA can rekindle the interest of wrestling and get the houses, TV ratings, ppv buys, merchandising up again. The UPN deal with the WWE expires,I believe, in August of this year a renewal with UPN or a possible move to Fox, a return to USA network, who knows, could be major news in regards to the future of professional wrestling.
 
 
SONNY: I'll close Wayne by saying that moving SUCKS !! I never knew how much crap I have and wonder why I still have it. It's been a great run and we'll cross paths again soon. Can't wait to do my thing like you see on the old "Mary Tyler Moore show" I want to throw my hat in the hair in downtown Phoenix while listening to the theme song from that show "you're going to make it after all" - maybe the Ronnie James Dio version. Lol
















CREDIT: Wayne Pettit