INTERVIEW: 'Fit' Finlay
A few years ago, I remember reading an online interview with WWE Chairman, Vince McMahon, in which he was asked to describe Fit Finlay. Vince called him a "tough, rugged bastard", as well as a "throwback to another era".
I'd say Vince nailed it.
In this latest interview with 'IMetAWrestler.com', I spent over twenty minutes talking to Finlay about that other era - the dark, smoke filled days of the '70s and early '80s, a time when the fans were much more volatile and aggressive, often attacking the wrestlers during events. For an Irish heel wrestling in England during The Troubles, Finlay dealt with more than his share of crazed audiences, earning his moniker of "The Tough Irish Bastard".
During the interview, we learn how Finlay traveled the globe, wrestling his way across Germany, Austria, Japan and Africa as a true wrestling journeyman. Eventually he reached the top of the mountain with World Wrestling Entertainment, and became a global superstar to wrestling audiences worldwide.
As many fans know, part of Finlay's duties during his time with WWE was helping to train the female wrestlers and build up what we know today as the WWE Divas division. With such a personal investment in the girls of today, how does Finlay feel about the constant criticism and belittlement that the Divas receive from so many wrestling fans?
The interview also focuses largely on the convention scene, as Finlay discusses his experiences meeting fans face to face, what he likes about wrestling conventions such as Wrestlereunion and Legends Fanfest, but also if the wrestlers and fans are getting "too close" to the detriment of the business.
I'd like to thank Fit for his time and giving some great answers to my questions. For those interested in meeting the man who "loves to fight", don't forget to stop by the Highspots booth at Wrestlereunion this Saturday, January 28. For more information, visit Wrestlereunion.
On Wrestlereunion: "It's just a great atmosphere. It's almost like a family reunion, you know, there's all this memoribilia stuff and stuff that comes out of the archives and you go "Wow!". You remember it from your childhood. It's an amazing thing to come to, you'll see all your favorite old timers, and some new guys, and it's just a great thing."
Seeing old friends at the shows: "Over the past few months, I've met people that I haven't seen for twenty or thirty years and it's like, "Wow!", you know? I forgot these people still existed."
Interacting with wrestling fans: "It really was strange for me at the beginning. I mean, I've not always been a babyface, let's put it that way. I was brought up in the old school way where you don't mix. But I know that it's moved on and it's changed, and it's good to see. I mean, I've seen loads of little kids, and last night this little kid came up to me and he was shaking and he had one of those wrestling figures of me, and he's shaking. These people are seeing TV stars really, when you think about it. It's a great thing to see that we can, as athletes, professional wrestlers, performers, superstars..whatever you want to tag us as...that you can have a relationship with the fans who come to watch you, and you can actually pat them on the back and say 'thank you' as well. The fans do as much for me, as I do for them."
Has social media damaged the mystique of the wrestler? "To a degree, I think it has. I think it's got too close and too mixed between the wrestlers and the fans, everyone getting to know each other too much. All this Facebook and all that stuff. It has taken away, sort've like the magician revealing the secrets type of thing, and the magic isn't as magic as it was."
Violent fans back in the old days: "I was Irish wrestling in England during that time, so you can imagine what that was like. I've been hit over the head with beer mugs, I've been stabbed, I've had cigarettes and cigars stubbed out on my back, things dropped on my car, I've had three or four people at a time jumping in the ring to try and fight me..it was wild. Particularly in England, it happened in Germany too, but England was the worst place for me, you know, being Irish. They didn't like the Irish back then. Which was good for me, and I made the most of it."
On his upcoming "World of Sport Rules" match with Colt Cabana: "I don't really pay much attention to rules and stuff. My passion is getting in, stepping through the ropes, and doing whatever has to be done. I've been doing this a long time, and every time I get in the ring, I'm excited and I give it my best. Whoever gets in with me, will experience something they've never experienced before, no matter who they are. It's like a drowning experience...you never forget it."
Memories of "World of Sport" itself: "It really was something that every family did. At 4 O'Clock in the afternoons on Saturdays, everybody sat around the television and watched World of Sport wrestling. It was on for, I think, an hour. There was a lot of characters, a lot of great wrestling talent around at that time, and it was a place to learn for other wrestlers too. You know, Japanese wrestlers would come through, American wrestlers...it was a training ground for so many wrestlers and big stars around the world."
Advice to the younger guys in the business: "This is a thing where you have to adapt all the time, you have to keep going forward. I think too many guys nowadays look at some other wrestler and want to be like them instead of developing who they really are, you know? It's gotta come within you, and not "I wanna be like him"...I think that's the wrong way to do it. I mean, you can admire someone else's work, or their strengths, but I wouldn't suggest emulating anybody."
Learning the ropes: "Every time you get in the ring with someone, you learn. You gain an experience. What not to do or what to do, it doesn't matter. If you don't learn something every time you step into the ring, then you're wasting your time."
Working as an amateur teacher at his local high school: "I grew up around wrestling, I'm third generation and my father runs amateur wrestling in Ireland, so I was always around amateur wrestling and I've done it all my life. I was national champion, multi-time Irish amateur champion, and the guys I wrestled with were sort of proud to be around me and always followed my career afterwards and stuff. So I never had that. Once you know the guys, you're friends for life."
His son entering the business: "He's a senior and this is his last year, and he's hoping to win State Title this year before he leaves school. I intend to send him to Japan, hopefully if I can make a deal with NJPW, then I'm going to send him out there for six months to a year. I'm going to get him to travel the world like I did, and I'll send him over to my dad as well, send him over to Ireland for a bit. My dad's 75 now but he can still drag him around the place."
Fans criticism of WWE Divas: "I do think it's unfair. I've had a great relationship with all the girls, we've trusted each other and I taught them quite a bit, and it was a real privilege for me to work with those girls and see them grow. But they're under a microscope, you know, and it's easy for anyone to sit at home and criticize. You can't look back at Moolah and all those other people and compare them. Wrestling has changed, it's different and it's just moved on."
WWE hiring models and turning them into wrestlers: "Those girls are so beautiful, and most of them are models, but every single one of them that I've worked with has got a passion to be in the ring. If they didn't - they wouldn't be there. I know nothing about football, absolutely nothing. And I can sit and watch and pull it apart, but I can't go in and do it. Opinions are like backsides, everybody's got one. I think the girls are very unfortunate that people try to pull them apart. They're not as good as this, not as good as that. Hey, here's my opinion: shut your mouth unless you try it."
Fans underestimating the girls toughness: "I've seen them all get busted open, you know. Trish dislocated her shoulder, or her elbow I think it was. Victoria slapped Beth in the face and broke her jaw, I've seen all sorts. And for someone to sit at home and pull the girls apart, especially girls doing this as a profession, as their job, they need to just sit back and enjoy it. As I said before, if you've never done it, shut your mouth."
Warning to online fans: "Just for the record, I don't have a Facebook. I know it's out there and people pretend to be me. I'm not personally on any websites or any of that stuff."