During the 1980s and 90s WWE was home to some of the most colorful characters in its history.
Barry Darsow portrayed Smash of the tag team Demolition and earlier the Repo Man, two popular superstars of those decades.
Fans will get to meet the veteran, along with other wrestling legends 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at Hogan’s Beach in Tampa for a special WrestleReunion event. The restaurant and bar is connected to the Best Western Bay Harbor Hotel.
Mean Gene Okerlund, Bobby Heenan, the Nasty Boys, Jimmy Hart, Koko B. Ware and Darsow’s Demolition tag partner Ax (Bill Eadie) will also participate.
Darsow is excited to see his former WWE colleagues and meet those who have followed him during his career.
“It’s incredible that for so many years we didn’t get to talk to the fans or anything,” Darsow said. “Now we are in the ring having fun, signing autographs and getting to talk to everybody…They are going to have a lot of fun. Both Ax and myself enjoy meeting every one of our fans. We’d love to hear what they have to say about some of the matches we’ve had, and what they’ve felt about them. It will be a really enjoyable time.
“Bill and I get out probably about once a month. We get calls all the time. We could be out every weekend if we wanted to, but we kind of pick and choose what we want to do. We don’t like to get in the ring too often. It’s mainly just autographs session.”
These days the multi-time tag team champion has built a life away from the ring and is busy running his own printing company, Added Value Printing, in Minnesota. Over the last seven years he and his business partner have gone from working out of a garage to a 10,000 square-foot space. They customize logos on hard hats, safety vests and other equipment.
This venture doesn’t leave much time to watch the current crop of talent out there. However, he does enjoy watching his son, Dakota, perform.
“When my son was wrestling, then I kind of paid more attention to it,” Darsow said. “The last he was on TNA, and they told them he was going to have a job. He waited and waited and ended up moving out of Florida. He ended up moving up to Michigan. So he just works some indie shows up there. I don’t know if he is fired up anymore about TNA, but I’m sure he will call WWE again.”
Dad says the next generation Darsow is training hard and is fun to see in action. When his son told him about entering the family business, naturally the former NWA, WCW and WWE superstar offered some advice.
“I told him to finish a four-year degree and then get a two-year degree and become a lawyer or a doctor,” Darsow said. “When he signed his contract with WWE to go down to the training camp, I was in the driveway and gave him a big hug. I said, ‘Son, I just want to give you some words of wisdom.’ He said, ‘Yeah Dad, sure.” I said, ‘OK, here is what I want you to do. I want you to go down there and train hard. You listen to [FCW executive] Steve Keirn and everything he says. You don’t get a steady girlfriend. You don’t get a lease on a house where it’s long-term. You don’t buy any furniture. You just buy what you can fit in your car, and for sure, do not get a girlfriend.’
“He said, ‘OK dad.’ So he moves down to Florida, gets a steady girlfriend, buys two dogs, has a house. Now he has one kid and another one on the way. So everything I told him about getting in the business he didn’t do…He is doing really well though. He is a great kid. I wish they would give him a shot because he would be one of those guys who would be loyal forever to them. He would be a good asset I think.”
Aside from his role in Demolition and as the Repo Man, Darsow delivered other personas including Krusher Kruschev and the Blacktop Bully. Much like any good actor, he made sure to bring something different to each role.
“They knew I could pull it off,” Darsow said. “I was trained by all the best people coming up, and I think I learned the trade the way you’re supposed to learn it. I took every one of my personas and became that persona when I wrestled. I think that was what was successful.
“Every one of them was a new experience and exciting. I always looked at the wrestling business where it’s not an easy business, and you have to give it 100 percent. No matter what they threw at me I knew I could give 100 percent, and I knew if I could give 100 percent I would make it.”
Of his personas, the Repo Man still remains a favorite. Darsow was doing so well with the heel character. Getting a warm reception when he entered the arena, he had other ideas with it..
“I wanted to be a good guy and visit all the kids in the hospital,” Darsow said. “I really enjoyed that stuff and making a difference. That’s why I coached for seven years. I coached hockey. I love it…It just wasn’t my time to be a good guy I guess. It was getting really hard to be the bad guy because the people were starting to cheer me.
“When you go out there and half the people cheer you and half the people boo you, at that time it’s not a good feeling. When I went to Vince [McMahon] and asked if he was going to change me good, he said, ‘No, we are not going to do it.’ I said, ‘Well, I can’t do this anymore, and that is when I put in my notice and quit.’ I would have stayed there forever. I would have still been there. I take my job so seriously in the ring, and I probably shouldn’t have because it was the greatest company to work for.”
Reflecting on his time in the wrestling business, he believed Ax and Smash wrestling the Brain Busters in two out of three falls really exemplified how good he was in the squared circle.
“That was probably one of the best matches we ever had because we wrestled Tully [Blanchard] and Arn [Anderson], who were two incredible wrestlers,” Darsow said. “I think what we did was make the wrestling the way it was supposed to be. You don’t see that kind of match anymore. It was hardcore. We were beating each other up. We did everything we had to do and worked 110 percent. That’s what made it. So that was what I want fans to remember. That is what wrestling is really all about, those matches…They don’t want tag team wrestling anymore. I think the people want it, but it’s all up to Vince [McMahon] and Triple H and all of them.”
The 53-year-old doesn’t see returning on a consistent basis but enjoys having fun at independent shows.
“The guys are incredible today,” Darsow said. “They wrestle a whole different way. They’re doing high spots all day long. They don’t do spur of the moment things anymore. We just went out there and did it. Now it’s a whole written list. I don’t know.
“[WWE superstar] Santino Marella has always been my favorite today. I think he is an unbelievable talent because he can wrestle the top, top guy or the bottom guy. It doesn’t matter if he wins or loses, he is going to put on a show, and you are going to be entertained. That’s what it’s all about.”
For information on the WrestleReunion event in Tampa, visit www.wrestlereunion.com or call 813-281-8900.
• Here is a recent YouTube video interview with WWE Hall of Famer Koko B. Ware, who will also be at WrestleReunion.
Jim Varsallone (the jimmyv3 channel)
Koko B. Ware and Frankie
The Nasty Boys with Jimmy Hart
• Follow Darsow on Twitter @RealDemoSmash.
• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN, http://twitter.com/#!/smFISHMAN, where I post links and information. Opinions expressed reflect no other entity. I can also be found tweeting incessantly during wrestling shows weekly.