Terrence: Tell me about yourself, your family, and your wrestling camp.
Jimmy Valiant: T-Bone I started wrestling in 1964. I wrestled in over 10,000 matches and drove over 4 million miles on US highways to get to those matches, so you can imagine I had a pretty exciting career. Of course, I wrote my autobiography called “Woo…Mercy Daddy!” It's 566 pages long and the book is a hardback and weighs three pounds. I tell people to buy two of the books and put one in each hand and work out with them. I have the wrestling camp here, something that my wife Angel and I founded in 1992 and this is the 18th year. This is something that I give back to my students and the fans over the years to make their dreams of becoming a wrestler come true. I have already lived my life out and with quite a career. Now it’s their turn. You can check all of that out at www.jimmyvaliant.weebly.com. Boogies Wrestling Camp Hall of Fame Museum is open 52 Sundays a year from 12 to 4pm. Everybody’s welcome, there is no charge once you get here T-Bone. I want to personally invite you and all the people from Arkansas to come be my guest any Sunday and spend all day with us. You will have access to any building in the camp. You can visit the museum and watch my students wrestling. Everything is free once you get here. This is how Angel and I give back.
Terrence: Everybody, including myself, is probably wondering how you got the nicknames of “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant and “The Boogie Woogie Man”
Jimmy Valiant: Well I was born handsome and hit the floor Boogie Woogie man. When I started wrestling my first mentor was one of the Volkoffs, the original Volkoff. They named me Jimmy Valentine and I used that some at the beginning from California. They billed me from Los Angeles and Hollywood. Then I went to Detroit and they billed me as Big Jim Valen and then I went to Oklahoma and Minnesota and they called me Jimmy “The Body” Valen and St. Louis and they called me the same. I was called "The Body" before Jesse Ventura. Finally in the late 60’s I went into Dallas, TX and when I got there Johnny Valentine was there and Von Erich told me that Jimmy Valentine was too close to Johnny Valentine. He then told me that my new name was Handsome Jimmy Valiant. The first day I came in and within two minutes he gave me my new name. This was like in 1969. That name stuck with me the rest of my career. Once he sent me to New York with Vince McMahon Sr. in 1970 and I went over and that was my big break. That name stuck and then 1980 or 1981 I went into Mid-Atlantic for Jim Crockett and there were a lot of pretty boy blond types. Ric Flair was there. It was then that I changed that all around and threw away my razor and let my beard grow out. I was the first to come out to music for that promotion. Man I started going down the aisle kissing and hugging everyone and that is when I started calling myself the Boogie Woogie Man. I actually reinvented myself. I had two different careers one as the bad guy and one as the good guy.
Terrence: Tell me about you career in Memphis. I know that you had a career there in Memphis for a time. Tell me about that.
Jimmy Valiant: You bet brother, T-bone I went into Memphis and Nashville in the 60’s. When I did go in 1977 it was in August just two weeks before Elvis died. I locked horns with King Fish Jerry Lawler I sold out the Memphis Coliseum for 6 months. I usually go back for legends shows but that has been going on for like 30 years. So I was King whenever Lawler broke his leg at one point there and he was out for a year and I was the head man until he got back on his feet. There were stars there like Bill Dundee, Jerry Lawler, Austin Idol, Dutch Mantel, and Kojo. It was a great territory.
Terrence: What was your most memorable match in your career?
Jimmy Valiant: There really isn’t a match that sticks out because I was very fortunate to work with all the world champions like Bruno Samartino, Harley Race, and Jerry Lawler. Me and my brother Johnny Valiant were tag team champions in the WWWF and held the belts for over a year in New York and worked with all of the greatest tag teams. I had big feuds with Ivan Koloff, Paul Jones and his Army, which consisted of Superstar Billy Graham and Abdula the Butcher. Every match was the match of my life.
Terrence: You know it is honorable to be inducted into a Hall of Fame in an independent promotion, but what was your reaction to finding out that you were being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame?
Jimmy Valiant: That was incredible, it was the icing on the cake, you know. I just wanted to be the goodwill ambassador for professional wrestling. That did it for me and I just want this to help my wrestling camp and help other kid’s dreams come true. You can see all the awards including the WWE Hall of Fame award in the Hall of Fame building at Boogie’s Wrestling Camp. Just this year they (WWE) came out with the Hall of Fame rings which I wear to my book signings and outings that I go to. It has the logo and the date we were inducted, it’s like our “Super-Bowl” ring.
Terrence: What was your reaction when ASWF Wrestling wanted to name their new building after you, calling it the Valiant Arena?
Jimmy Valiant: I was honored. You know Ricky Rowland and his mom were really great people. In my book I mention both of them, it has a great story. You have to check it out. When they asked if they could do this and I said sure I would be honored and they are doing it right. It’s just a great place for people to go and see matches weekly like it was preserving the old territories. There are not too many organizations doing this and they are bringing it back. I was just really honored.
Terrence: I understand that you are currently retired from wrestling. Are you enjoying your retirement?
Jimmy Valiant: Yeah, it’s great. I have plenty of time to do charity work and my wrestling camp. You can check my jimmyvaliant.weebly.com site and see where I’m going. I’m not lacing my boots but I will special guest referee and stuff like that. T-Bone what I do now is just maintain BWC Compound. It is only open for four hours on Sundays.
Terrence: Wrestling has been a big part of your career, if you didn’t choose wrestling as your career what path would you have chosen?
Jimmy Valiant: I probably would have chosen body building. It's good clean living and I’m not saying I lived the cleanest life but I started out that way and I am ending up that way. I talk about all that in my book, about all that I went through.
Terrence: Since retirement do you miss getting into the ring and wrestling? I know that you have expressed through this interview that you love wrestling and I understand that totally, otherwise I wouldn’t be in it. It’s fun and entertaining and brings a smile to the fans faces.
Jimmy Valiant: Not really, I am constantly around it with my wrestling camp and I look at the kid’s faces and they tell me “Boogie I just love it here.” I have been doing this 18 years and I can relive it through them. I will say this in closing that next year in 2010 I am going to lace up my boots one more time. I am not coming out of retirement, but it’s a personal record to me. In 2010 I will have wrestled in six decades. I wrestled in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000 and then 2010 and that will make six decades.
Terrence: Well in closing is there anything that you would like to add before we conclude this interview.
Jimmy Valiant: I just want to tell Ricky and his mom and all the boys there in Arkansas that Handsome Jimmy loves you all and I am so proud of everyone there and the Valiant Arena. Ricky brings me down every one or two years. And T-Bone if there is anything that I can do for you or the people of Arkansas just email me. Be sure to check out my website, www.jimmyvaliant.weebly.com.
Handsome Jimmy Valiant is probably one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He has truly made his mark in professional wrestling. If you would like to purchase "Woo...Mercy Daddy!" go to www.jimmyvaliant.weebly.com to find our how you can own this biography on the WWE Hall of Famer. I would like to thank Handsome Jimmy for allowing me to do this interview and hope that younger and older audiences alike continue to carry on the sport of professional wrestling.
T-Bone Terrence Ward
Be sure to check out T-Bone Terrence Ward's blog at thebonefactor.blogspot.com