I had a fascinating conversation this past week on my syndicated Hart Beat Radio podcast with former WWF tag team champion and long time agent, Tony Garea.
Tony originally began his long and successful career back in the late ‘60’s in his native New Zealand, which was a remarkably productive wrestling hot bed back in the day, producing such stars as: former NWA world heavyweight champion Pat O’Connor; the legendary Samoan High Chief Peter Maivia (grandfather of Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson); the vaunted Maori mauler – John da Silva; the colorful Bushwhackers – Luke Williams and Butch Carter; and other stars like Ray Gordon, Steve Rickard and Ken Kenneth – all of whom, he proudly related, were either friends or mentors of his.
After having learned the ropes down under, Tony was invited in the early 70’s by Vince McMahon Sr. to work in the United States, where he would go on to become a multiple time WWF tag team champion, partnering the likes of Rick Martel, Brian Blair and Haystacks Calhoun and feuding with the Moondogs, the Valiant Brothers and Nikolai Volkoff and Iron Sheik, among others.
Tony’s in-ring career was unfortunately cut short due to injuries in the 1980’s, at which time , Vince Sr. made him an agent. His relationship with the organization has now lasted for well over forty years – spanning the transition of the WWF to the WWE and from Vince Sr. to Vince Jr., which speaks volumes about his loyalty to the company and his integrity.
One of our callers wanted to know how would compare the two main forces in WWF/WWE history – Vince Sr. and Vince Jr. Tony spoke highly of both, noting that both were astute business men, who helped transform the WWF and WWE into the incredible global phenomenon that it has become. He cited that Vince Sr. tended to be more old school and traditional in his approach to the business, while Jr. was more of iconoclastic maverick who wasn’t afraid of deviating from conventionality or taking chances – many of which proved to be enormously successful.
Tony also had high praise for several of the iconic performers who have graced WWF rings, including legendary former champions, like: the original Italian stallion – Bruno Sammartino; Puerto Rican flash, Pedro Morales; underrated Bob Backlund; the dynamic Hulk Hogan; and cutting edge heels such as Roddy Piper, Bob Orton Jr., Randy Savage, Curt Hennig and Ted di Biase – all of whom had an innate ability to generate heat and to make whomever they worked with look good.
Tony also expressed his regard for modern day superstars such as Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, John Cena, Daniel Bryan and Kurt Angle, saying that they would have been superstars in any era and are all a credit to the business.
As for his perspectives on the current state of the wrestling business, going forward, Tony said he remained a fan, first and foremost, but that he’d like to see more emphasis on “wrestling” and less on so-called “entertainment.”
That seems to be a common consensus among many of the old school wrestling aficionados, myself included. I would hope that Hunter, Vince, Shane and whomever else that are calling the shots in Titan Tower might take that into consideration, although if they were to start going back to old school, it would require some fundamental changes in their whole approach to the business. All things considered I’m not really sure if they have the wherewithal to implement those types of changes.
At the end of our broadcast, there was a surprise caller – the charming Barbara Goodish, wife of the late, great Bruiser Brody – who, like Tony, originally hailed from New Zealand and had been friends from way back, but hadn’t spoken to him in years. They ended up having a fascinating trip down memory lane, which certainly made me realize why they refer to that bygone era as “the good old days.”
In any case, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank both of them for coming on and sharing their memories and reflections. I might add that If there were more Tony Gareas, Barbara and Frank Goodishes on the scene today, the business would be in a hell of a lot better shape than it is.
On that somewhat winsome note, I’ll call this a wrap, but will look forward to catching up with you all next time.
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