Corrigan’s Corner: J.J. Dillon Talks Breaking Into The Business, WCW, And More (Part II Of A Q&A)

efore The Authority, before DX, and before the NWO, there was one group in professional wrestling that defined strength in numbers and harbored a sense of brotherhood: the Four...
Before The Authority, before DX, and before the NWO, there was one group in professional wrestling that defined strength in numbers and harbored a sense of brotherhood: the Four Horsemen.

Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, his “cousin” Ole, and Tully Blanchard comprised the original incarnation as Barry Windham, Lex Luger, and several others threw up the four fingers in later years. But while there were many members, there was only one guiding force, one manager: the illustrious, yet dastardly, J.J. Dillon.

“That was really only a snapshot of my career,” said Dillon in our interview last week. The Hall of Famer discussed his lengthy, varied career and the history of the business, which he has been a part of for more than half a century.

You can find out more about Dillon’s amazing life story by purchasing his autobiography “Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls” available at

For Dillon’s memories of the late, great Dusty Rhodes, check out Part 1.

Breaking Into The Business:

“I actually started as a referee in eastern Pennsylvania. I went to college at Albright in Reading, and reffed at the old arena at 46th and Market where Dick Clark did his Bandstand show every day. Willie Gilzenberg, one of the co-owners initially, asked who was this young guy. Vince McMahon Sr. used to come once a month to the big shows. I remember two things about him: He was always jingling a roll of half dollars and he was a chain smoker. He was impeccably dressed, and knew me by name. I was different because most of the refs were political plums while I was an actual wrestling fan. This was the year of all those great challenges against Bruno Sammartino and when things were going to get hot, the other refs would complain, but I didn’t care. So I gained a lot of respect among the wrestling people at that time.”

Madison Square Garden:

“A year or two before Eddie Graham’s passing, I was having a casual conversation with him. At that point, I was wrestling some, but more of a manager. I told him, ‘Oh boy, it seems just like yesterday I went to Madison Square Garden and saw Dr. Jerry Graham and dreamed of one day, maybe I could wrestle in the Garden.’ I had been all over the world at that point, but never in that area. Well, two days later, Eddie came in and said, ‘you’re on the card.’ April 23, 1984. They flew me up. Eddie called Vince Senior and he said, ‘of course I remember him and would love to do something for him.’

It wasn’t until after the fact that some people told me that because of the turmoil caused by Vince going national, that all of those political favors of booking territorial guys in the Garden, that was halted. I was the last one.”

Who Did You Wrestle That night?

“Tito Santana. I have the program insert of that night mounted on my wall. I replaced one of the Samoans and fought Tito for the Intercontinental Championship. Actually, I was in Amarillo when he was at West Texas State so I’ve known him forever. The main event was Sgt. Slaughter against the Iron Sheik. Greg Valentine against Bob Backlund. A 6 man with Piper, Orndorff, and Dr. D against Atlas, Johnson, and Putski. As many as unfortunate and untimely deaths as we’ve had in the business, I got everybody on that card to sign the insert and it’s mounted on my wall.”

WCW Days:

“When you have an episodic, athletic, soap opera that runs 52 weeks of the year and basically never ends, it takes a special talent to be able to keep the ball rolling. If you ask Ted Turner what were the three things that were the core of him getting started with the Superstation, he would say it was the wrestling that he so dearly loved, the Braves, and Andy Griffith. In the early years while taping shows, it was not uncommon for Ted to show up in the studio and tell whoever he was with that “these are my WRASSLERS.” A lot of people in power in the organization looked down upon wrestling as something below them and wanted to get rid of it, but Ted wouldn’t have any of it.

Then over a period of time, he didn’t have the power to keep us. That was the other thing about when WCW closed down. Not only were 77 guys now out of a job, but it was kind of sad on that simulcast when Vince McMahon appeared on Turner’s network, sticking his nose back at Ted Turner. It was sad, Ted Turner deserved better than that.”

Were You There At The Final WCW Monday Nitro?

“No, I had a bad falling out when Eric Bischoff was there. When I left Vince, I had three small children and needed a job. As I look back, I’m not surprised that I was hired by WCW because I had been high profile in the business. But I remember meeting Bischoff for the first time in the CNN offices. I thought here’s somebody that was going to pick my brain on terms of the philosophy and benefit from all of my years in the experience. Instead, he just kept talking about how and when he was going to put Vince McMahon out of business, like he was obsessed. I certainly wasn’t going to say, ‘hey pal, if you think you’re gonna put him out of business, you’re chasing a dream. He’s gonna be around.’ (laughs)

It’s like Vince gave Bischoff enough rope because he didn’t know what he was doing. Eric looked at me as someone, it could have gone two ways. He could have used me as a resource to help him, or he could look at me and go ‘here’s the one guy who knows I don’t know what I’m doing.’ I think it was more the latter. We never really developed a relationship.”

Dream Matches:

“My wishlist of people to wrestle includes Gorgeous George, Johnny Valentine, Bruno Sammartino. You know, I’ve been friends with Bruno for over 50 years. He’s one of the people who helped me as a kid, and one of the greatest people I’ve ever known.”

These Days:

“Life is good. Having kids late in life has given me a better appreciation for being a father. I’m thankful I had total left knee replacement surgery in 2007, then the following year during a regular physical, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. They caught it extremely early, so now im cancer free. I’m glad at this point in my life I’m able to work full-time to help my children with their education. And I’m still involved with the Cauliflower Alley Club and a legit Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in upstate New York.

The one thing that doesn’t change for me is the memories of being part of the profession. You have to love it to do it. You also have to have some talent, and if you have both of those, you still need some help from people. And then that one elusive factor is the sheer luck of right place, right time when the opportunity presents itself. That’s what happened with me and the Horsemen. I’m looking at retiring probably in another year, and then writing a follow-up book with Scott Teal.” editor John Corrigan can be reached at . Follow him on Twitter at .

2 Comments on this post.
  • Corrigan's Corner: J.J. Dillon Remembers Dusty Rhodes | Wrestledelphia
    1 July 2015 at 1:17 PM
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    […] Corrigan's Corner: J.J. Dillon Talks Breaking Into The Business, WCW, And More (Part II Of A Q&A) […]

  • Dave Barton
    2 July 2015 at 12:45 AM
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    I hate to nitpick, because I loved reading your article…but Ole & Arn were billed as cousins, not uncle & nephew. Perhaps you’re confusing them with Uncle Ivan and Nephew Nikita, the Koloffs? Same territory, same era.

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