Here it is, what we’ve all been waiting for – the long awaited John Tenta interview! John speaks frankly about his WWF career as Earthquake, working with Hulk Hogan and Jake Roberts, his WCW disasters as Avalanche and Shark, and his time with the Oddities. It’s a very open discussion, and those who are fans of Eric Bischoff, Insane Clown Posse, or Kevin Sullivan should turn back now!
We’ve posted the interview in two variations; an audio version and a written transcript.
Click here to hear the Real Audio version of the interview, and it runs just under a half-hour in length. Be forewarned that the audio quality isn’t the greatest, especially at the beginning of the interview (it gets much better about a minute in, and we’re working on a better system for the future). That said, it’s definitely listenable (is that a word?), and well worth checking out.
If you’d rather read it, well, just scroll on down! If you feel like reposting the interview somewhere, knock yourself out – just make sure to credit Wrestlecrap.com. And, of course, we’d like to publicly thank John for doing the interview.
Without any further ado…
John Tenta Wrestlecrap Interview
Wrestlecrap: Hey fans, you got the Real Deal, RD Reynolds on Wrestlecrap today. And we’re talking with the man, the myth, the legend, the man who is known as Shark, as Golga, as Avalanche, and most famously as Earthquake, Mr. John Tenta. John, how are you doing today?
John Tenta: Well, Deal, I’m fine, but I think you got that mixed up a little a bit. I think I’m most famous as Golga and Shark those have been the best gimmicks I ever had. (laughs)
WC: Out of all the gimmicks, which one did you like doing the best?
JT: Well, it had to be Earthquake. (laughs) I’ll be honest with you, it HAD to be Earthquake.
WC: Oh, I bet. (laughs) For fans that don’t know, and man, we had just a ton of emails for questions, and we’re going to try to get through as many questions as we can with John todaywhat are you up to these days?
JT: Well, I just had surgery about a month ago. I had a herniated disc, so they took the disc out and fused two vertebrae. So I’m not doing a whole lot in the ring, but I’ve started a wrestling school down where I live in Stanford, Florida. I’ve had it open for two weeks and I’ve got about ten students already, so I’m happy with that.
WC: Well, that sounds good. If anybody wanted to contact you, are you still taking new students?
JT: Oh yeah, I’m still taking new students for sure.
WC: That would be awesome, being trained by the Earthquake. Do you do any gimmick training?
JT: Eventually there will be some of that. I want to help with character development. I don’t know how gimmicky I’m going to get, but we’ll just have to see in the future. I’ve already had one guy come and tell me he wanted to be “The Wolf”, so we’ll take that as it comes.
Background & Training
WC: Now your background…who trained you? Where were you trained at?
JT: I was trained over in Japan with Giant Baba and All Japan Pro Wrestling.
WC: So you were with All Japan. Did you work any independents in the US before you came to the WWF?
JT: I did a little local stuff where I lived in Canada in Vancouver, not a whole lot. I basically started in Japan and then the WWF.
WC: I know that I had seen a match where you had a sumo match with…let’s see, Yokozuna? I’ve heard rumors that you were legitimately trained in sumo, is that correct?
JT: Yeah, that’s what got me over in Japan. I’ll try to make it a short story. In ’86, they had the World’s Fair in Vancouver, and Japan wanted to put on a sumo exhibition. So they went to the local university looking for a Canadian wrestler to participate. And they said if Tenta didn’t do it, they didn’t know who would. I was ready to do it, but they didn’t have the exhibition. But the sumo master was impressed enough with me that he wanted me to go to Japan and do sumo, where I went and became instantly famous as the only white guy in sumo. (laughs) And ran up and undefeated record of 24-0.
WC: Wow. So you said you also wrestled at the university?
JT: Yeah, I did amateur in high school and then I wrestling scholarship to Louisiana State University. And one of my highlights in amateurs isI don’t know, I’m about five or six time Canadian champion and in 1983 I won the junior world championship, beating a Russian, Japanese, German and then an American in the final.
WC: How big were you in high school?
JT: I was about 350 at that time.
WC: Holy Moley I bet nobody wanted to mess with you!
JT: Well, I didn’t have a lot of experience but I’ve always been blessed with a lot of coordination, balance, and strength and I learned to use it quite well.
WWF Run With Hogan
WC: That sounds very cool. Let’s go to your WWF days. When you came in as Earthquake…when you first came in, I was watching the tape the other night and I believe it was in West Virginia they had you come in with Dino Bravo.
JT: That was in Wheeling.
WC: Yeah. And when they brought you in, your first angle was attacking the Ultimate Warrior. Did you know going in that you were going to be pushed that heavily?
JT: No, I had no idea. I was used to the Japanese system where, by that time, you had to work your way up to the top. And to come in and knowing I was going to squash the Ultimate Warrior that day was just a big surprise and a pleasant surprise. I was pretty intimidated because I was still pretty much a fan of those guys because I was just getting into the territory.
WC: And then you went on to work with Hulk as well. Leading to…let’s see, you headlined the PPV at SummerSlam 90?
JT: I think it was about 90, yeah.
WC: And you were also involved with him at Survivor Series 90 as well, I believe.
WC: What was it like working with Hogan?
JT: It was, of course, great. Once I was there, I was like, wow, I’m wrestling the top name in pro wrestling and it was an honor to work with him. He was very easy to work with and he liked what I was doing, and we became pretty good friends.
WC: I noticed you actually lost that match by countout. Was there a reason they didn’t want to go with a pin? Were they building towards another PPV or were they just pushing the house show business?
JT: Hulk wanted to do another PPV with me. He liked the reactions we were getting. I was helping make him more popular than ever, and of course I was the most hated guy at that time for going against him. Basically whoever worked with Hulk Hogan in those years was the most hated guy anyway, but I think I just made it a little bit better.
WWF Run with Jake Roberts
WC: After you worked the program with Hulk, they put you into a program with Jake “The Snake” Roberts, the infamous ‘squashing Damian’ program. (Tenta laughs) Which lead to one of my favorite things ever, when you had the Quakeburgers on Prime Time Wrestling. What was it like working with Jake?
JT: It was great. He’s the man if you want to talk psychology of wrestling, that’s the man. He’s the master at that, he’s very good. He makes everything interesting; everything was done for a reason and he told me why. So it was an honor to work with him at that time as well.
WC: So was he the one that came up with the idea to squash the snake or was that yours or the bookers?
JT: That came from the office that was one of the bookers, I believe. I never really knew, I just did as I was told.
WC: A lot, I think. Did the WWF get any heat from animal rights activists?
JT: They were right there to make sure that the actual snake wasn’t crushed.
WC: Just out of curiousity, what was in the bag? Any idea?
JT: I know what it was I’m just letting everything out of the bag here, aren’t I? (laughs) It was pantyhose stuffed with hamburger meat. (laughs) It didn’t feel so great, but it was a soft landing.
WWF Tag Team Champs: The Natural Disasters
WC: After that you were still in the WWF and you went into a tag team known as the Natural Disasters that went on to win the WWF tag team belts, and that was with Tugboat aka Typhoon aka Fred Ottman. What was it like working with Fred?
JT: He’s one of the greatest guys I’ve met in this business. He’s very humble, he’s always ready to give 100%. He’d get upset if something went wrong in the match. He’d always try to get better. It was great working with him, and it wasn’t bad having a guy his size covering my back, either.
WC: Did you guys travel together, or was that just in the ring? Did you two hang out?
JT: We traveled together. I didn’t travel with a lot of people, but I’d travel with Jimmy Hart and I’d travel with Typhoon. And Earl and Dave Hebner those were the only people I would travel with.
WC: After that you kind of faded out of the WWF picture. What made you decide to leave the WWF?
JT: At that time I didn’t see a whole lot going on for me and Typhoon. I’m not the most patient guy, I want something happening all the time. That’s probably been the problem with my career, that I’m impatient. I didn’t see a whole lot going on and they had different tag teams they wanted to push, and we kinda got pushed to the back. I just felt like we were too big to be pushed back, so I just took a hiatus and went back to Japan for a while.
WC: One other question about the Natural Disasters. Whose idea was it to team you two up?
JT: That was actually my idea. At the time, I had just finished the Jake thing and Tugboat wasn’t doing a whole lot. So I was talking with Pat Patterson and I asked what he was doing with him (Tugboat), and I said I’d possibly like to tag with him. And Pat thought it was great idea. So a few weeks later, we set it up.
WC: So you guys had to be about the biggest tag team in the history of the WWF?
JT: That’s what they called us, the biggest tag team in WWF history.
WCW Run as Avalanche
WC: Then you went back to Japan back to All Japan?
JT: No, politics got in the way there. One of their top stars, Tenryu, went and made his own company, and I had gone over with WWF for the new company, which upset Baba a lot. So I basically burned my bridge with him. So I went back with Tenryu; it was called SWF at one time, and then he changed it to WAR.
WC: Then shortly after that you went to WCW?
JT: Well, I went back for a few months with WWF and I was so pleased at the time with the financial situation. So I called WCW.
WC: And WCW, did they welcome you with open arms?
JT: What I didn’t know at the time was that Eric Bischoff wasn’t a big Earthquake fan. Hulk was pushing for me. First of all, I had to get out of my WWF contract before he would even talk to me, and once I did, he was interested. So I went down there, and had not too bad of a first year but it was pretty much downhill after that.
WC: Now the first year you would have come in as Avalanche?
WC: I assume the WWF owned the “Earthquake” name and that’s why you had to come in as Avalanche?
WC: Do you own that name now (Earthquake)?
JT: No I don’t.
WC: You need to get it!
JT: Yeah, I was thinking about it. They say I might be able to get it legally because they may not have renewed the patent, but I may just approach WWF and ask for permission.
WC: I think they should do that. Before we get into some of the gimmicks you did in WCW and then later coming back to the WWF, which company did you like working for more?
JT: Definitely WWF.
WC: Any reasons why?
JT: Basically problems with Bischoff, which made WCW not the best step I’ve ever made in my career. I went down with promises on a few different things and he broke them. You know, Vince doesn’t always give you what you want but he’s true to his word.
WCW Run as Shark
WC: You mentioned the first year was pretty good and then it went to the Dungeon of Doom and the Shark gimmick. Was it Bischoff’s idea to do the Shark, or whose idea was that?
JT: I’m pretty sure it was Hulk Hogan’s idea.
WC: So he was just looking for the Dungeon of Doom to be killer heels?
JT: Right, he wanted a stable to go up against.
WC: So when they presented you with the idea of being the big killer Shark, what went through your head?
JT: I had already thought that Shark didn’t fit me. At that time, I was still about 430 pounds and I didn’t think Shark was a name to put on a guy that big. And the fans let me know it wasn’t a good idea (laughs).
WC: I bet they had some prime comments for you.
JT: There were a few people shouting “beached whale!” and stuff like that.
WC: So what was it like with the Dungeon of Doom? It was you, and they brought in Loch Ness from England…
JT: And we had One Man Gang and Kamala…
WC: And Brutus Beefcake as the Zodiac.
JT: Right, and it was a real good idea that had Kevin Sullivan making himself the big man out of all these huge guys. That’s something like happened with the Golga thing with Jackyl.
WC: So was Sullivan the booker at the time?
JT: Yeah, he was the booker, so history repeats itself.
WC: I’ve seen it so many times where the booker is one of the boys and it just never seems to work out. How long were you doing the Shark gimmick?
JT: Oh, that’s another great thing. Here I was, I had a tattoo from LSU of a tiger on my arm, and I knew I couldn’t be going around with a tiger on my arm, so I got it changed to a shark. Twenty four hours it took to change this tattoo of a tiger and make it a shark. And two months later, I wasn’t the Shark anymore! (laughs)
WC: I was watching the intro of the Shark into the Dungeon of Doom, and you had this forearm brace?
JT: Oh yeah, with fins that was a nice touch too, wasn’t it? (laughs)
WC: That was awesome! Do you still have all that stuff?
JT: Yeah, I still have it packed away somewhere.
WC: You should go out to eBay and auction that stuff off you’d make a mint! (laughs) After you were the Shark, you turned face and did the “I’m not a fish, I’m a man” speech. And then Big Bossman (Big Bubba at the time) came out and shaved half your head. Whose idea was that?
JT: That idea was mine. As I had said, Erich Bischoff wasn’t an Earthquake fan and he was trying to get rid of me, after one year, after I had burnt my bridge with Vince and the WWF. He was wanting to get rid of me. And he said, “Well, come up with some ideas” and so he loved that and he had Bubba take it off. And the thing was getting over pretty good, I thought I wouldn’t even go out with music and the people would pop. But Bischoff didn’t like it
WC: Did Bischoff not like it before or after he let Bubba shave off half your beard?
JT: I don’t think that he didn’t like that, I think that he didn’t like John Tenta as a person. He didn’t like the WWF guys coming in and getting bigger pops than the WCW guys that had been there.
WC: I guess that made it look like Vince is the guy that creates the stars. That’s always been a big knock against WCW. What finally led to you leaving WCW? More run ins with Bischoff?
JT: He just let me go. His quote was, “I can’t justify paying you the amount of money I pay you and have you sit at home.” Number one, I wasn’t making a quarter of what some of them were, and number two, that’s out of my hands. I was ready to work 200, 250 days a year for him. Meanwhile, you have these guys with the famous “I only work 100 days” contracts and there sitting at home more than me. I’m pretty bitter towards Bischoff, because I don’t think he was fair in that aspect. I was coming up with my own ideas, and I would do anything to save my job. And I DID do anything I did jobs for guys I didn’t think I should do. I did jobs for guys half my size. Basically, he was just trying to kill me off. So if I ever get Bischoff, I’d like him in a cage.
WWF: The Oddities
WC: After you left WCW, how long was it before you came back to the WWF for the Oddities?
JT: It was about a year later.
WC: And what did you do during that time? Did you go back to Japan?
JT: No. Basically, I was just trying to make a living off of independents at that time, but there weren’t a lot of calls. I didn’t know the best way to get my name out there. I didn’t have the internet, you know. It was a bit of a bad time for me.
WC: So you contacted the WWF about coming in?
JT: Yeah, I contacted them. They took me to a tryout because I told them I had lost some weight. I did well at the tryout and I got my job back for a while.
WC: How much did you weigh at the WWF tryout?
WC: Was the WWF pushing you to lose weight?
JT: No, I was just watching wrestling on TV, I had a lot of time to watch wrestling on TV, and I saw that the big fat guys weren’t on TV anymore. There’s a few exceptions. But I knew I needed to get in a little better shape, a little more agile, with better wind, so I’ve been going through that process for the last couple of years.
WC: So what was the original plan for Golga? I mean, obviously, he was part of the Oddities, but is there a reason they didn’t want to bring you back as Earthquake?
JT: I don’t know if that maybe had something to do with me leaving them for WCW, as kind of a punishment thing. Vince said that he wasn’t holding a grudge, and I felt that if he was holding a grudge he wouldn’t have brought me back at all, so I have to believe him on that. I think he may have wanted someone to help lead Kurrgan and Silva a little bit.
WC: Those guys were both really green at the time?
JT: Kurrgan had a little more experience, but Silva had none.
WC: Yeah, I think that Kurrgan still working independents, but Silva is completely out of the business. That mask for Golga was kinda weird, it kinda covered your eyes. Did you have any problems with that? Had you worked under a mask before?
JT: No I never had, it took some getting used to. I knew of course that you had to put on a bigger selling job with the mask on, but eventually I got it. At first, as I said earlier, I wasn’t too happy with the gimmick. I wasn’t too happy with Jackyl.
WC: Did you have problems with Don Callis (Jackyl)?
JT: I didn’t have personal problems with him outside. I just had problems with him trying to turn our segments into the Jackyl segments, trying to be the star over the wrestler. I have just never been brought up that the manager is a bigger star than the wrestlers.
WC: Actually, I’ve done some managing on the independent circuit, and that’s the first thing they say make sure that the guys in the ring are the stars. Now you did the South Park gimmickdid you guys catch any flack for that? Are you a real life South Park fan?
JT: I wasn’t when I started the gimmick. Then I got some tapes, and I became a fan. But no, we didn’t have any problems we didn’t sell any merchandise with the Cartman doll on it. In fact, we didn’t sell any Oddities merchandise at all! (laughs)
Thoughts on Insane Clown Posse
WC: During that period, you also worked with the Insane Clown Posse. They have a rather ummm unique reputation in the business. A lot of people don’t like them. What was it like working with them?
JT: Well, when you get me Bischoff in the cage, you are welcome to throw them in as well! (laughs) I’ll do a handicap match just for them.
WC: Was it a thing like Jackyl where they were trying to take the spotlight?
JT: Well, yeah, they wanted the spotlight. They wanted to do what they wanted to do. They’d come in and tell Vince McMahon what they wanted to do, that they didn’t like what was planned, and they wanted to do it this way and that way. Every week turned into a pain in the butt. That may be another reason why the Oddities disappeared. They were basically a pain in the butt. They were prima donnas, who had no business being in there if it wasn’t for their song.
WC: What actually led to the dissolvement of the Oddities?
JT: I’m not 100% sure. I’m going to guess that it was because Paul Wight (the Big Show) was coming in, and they didn’t want any other giants in the territory.
WC: We actually got an email about this, I haven’t heard of it but maybe you have. Apparently there is a young, says here untalented, kid who is working independent shows dressed like Golga, calling himself the WWF Oddity. Have you heard about that?
JT: Yeah, I heard about some kid up in Montana or something like that imitating me. But there’s nothing I can do about it, so I don’t worry about things like that.
WC: But maybe if he was doing the Earthquake gimmick…
JT: But nobody can do that like me! (laughs) There’s been imitations all over the world, and what can I say? I just think I did the gimmick good.
The Present and the Future
WC: At the top of the interview, you mentioned you had just had surgery. Will that preclude you from making any comebacks, or do you want to make a comeback?
JT: In the back of my mind, I am hoping for one more comeback. I have my school open, so I can do it at my own pace. I have about 4 or 5 more months til the vertebrae will be at their strongest, the doctor says as strong as they will ever be. That’s when I’ll start checking out some bumps and stuff. With the school here, I want to lose more weight, I want to do more training. And I’m hoping for one more comeback, if I’m lucky, for another year or two.
WC: I don’t think you’d want to go back to WCW, but the WWF I think you’d have interest in.
JT: Of course, that’s who I’d want to do it for. But you know if it works out, it works out, if not I hope that the school takes off and it seems to be doing that right now.
WC: Any interest in ECW at all?
JT: Well, I had approached them, and I don’t keep updated, but I don’t know if there’s going to be an ECW anymore or not. But I had contacted Paul and stopped by one of the shows when he was here. I gave him an idea of me, Typhoon, and Kurrgan coming in and beating up his little babyfaces, but I guess he decided he didn’t want something like that.
WC: I think that might have gotten over. Those ECW marks would’ve hated you!
JT: I thought it would bring back some old style heat, kinda copy the old NOW thing where we’re coming in trying to take over the territory. I think we would’ve gotten good interest I think people would have tuned in on TV.
WC: I could see that working. Out of all the gimmicks, you said you liked working as Earthquake the best. What was the worst?
JT: It had to be the Shark. I checked out your webpage, I saw what you did to me, showig me with my teeth gnashing. (laughs) That was probably the most embarrassing gimmick I ever had.
WC: Again, our website is not dedicated to knocking the workers. It’s dedicated to the bookers who come up with these gimmicks that are so ludicrous that it gives the guys no chance to get over. Out of all the gimmicks you’ve seen over the years, outside of your own, what one would you say would be the worst?
JT: Oh geez…ummm…
WC: The Leprechaun you had with the Dungeon of Doom?
JT: I don’t know I liked the Leprechaun , I thought that was a good deal. A nasty little Leprechaun running around, I kinda liked it. (laughs) It’s hard for me off the top of my head to pick the worst one. There have been, of course, a few. I can’t really pick one. I’m not going to choose any one. (laughs)
WC: John, I want to thank you so much for coming on and doing the interview with us, and I wish you nothing but the best.
JT: Thank you very much.