NORFOLK -- Pro-wrestling great “Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko is coming to Norfolk for an appearance with Vanguard Championship Wrestling (VCW), Dec. 14. VCW will be presenting “Tidings of Destruction” at Norfolk Masonic Temple in which the winner of the 2013 Lutz Cup Tournament will be crowned.
Zbyszko will be on hand to present the trophy to the winner of this tournament as well as provide commentary for some of the night’s action. Starting at 6 p.m., fans have the opportunity to meet Zbyszko for autographs and photo opportunities. The rest of the action begins at 7:30. Ticket information can be found at VCW-Wrestling.com.
The “Legend” was kind enough to share some memories from his storied career.
Zbyszko’s message to the military:
“God bless them and keep up the good work. America needs the integrity of our generals and armed forces to let the freedom stay here, whether it’s (protecting) from terrorists or bankers.”
“Norfolk, in the good old days (70s and 80s) when there were still territories, was a good wrestling town. I remember Norfolk being one of the places that we’d like to stay in. They had a big supermarket that was called “The Giant.” The cool thing about it was, late at night after the wrestling shows, they had a little kitchen set up where you could pick out the steak you wanted and they’d cook it up for you right there.”
Relationship with his trainer and mentor WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino and how it has evolved over the years:
“It’s a good relationship. It had its ups and downs. He was such a big star. At the beginning of my career as he retired, I was getting lost in the shuffle of being his protégé. I would drive Vince McMahon Sr. crazy back then when I was looking for a break (in the World Wide Wrestling Federation). I knew the only way I could get it was by wrestling my mentor. He didn’t want to do it, but it ended up being the biggest thing that the old-school generation pulled off. It was the launching pad for what wrestling would eventually become.”
On being the last individual to hold the World Heavyweight Championship in the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and then signing with World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Were there any ideas to promote himself as the AWA champion when starting his run in WCW?
“When (pro-wrestling) was getting to the point where the “mom and pop” stores (territories) were closing up, the AWA had the idea to keep itself in business by invading WCW. They wanted me to wrestle their new world champion Sting. It never happened. The interesting side to that coin is around 1996 and 1997. WCW had the chance to expand with Monday Nitro in competition with Monday Night Raw. The same idea that the AWA was going to use, since I was involved in the office with Greg Gagne and Eric Bischoff, was (now) called the New World Order (N.W.O.). That whole idea came from the crumbling of the AWA.”
On being cheered during his WCW run after garnering such hatred during his earlier career:
“In the good old days, it was exciting to be the most hated man alive. It was also a responsibility because that is what created the interest. I got shot at, stabbed, turned over in a cab. The people really hated me. After years of that, it was nice to mellow out. At the end of my career, I became the good guy that saved Nitro from the N.W.O. I kind of became like my hero Bruno (Sammartino). It was my dream to be like Bruno. It was two of the biggest pay-per-view buyrates that WCW had ever done – my wrestling Bischoff on one and Scott Hall on the other.”
On his stalling techniques that would anger his opponents and fans:
“It was my idea of playing with their heads. Most wrestlers were not that swift. We wrestled everyday, so a lot of the guys would get used to one kind of style. It would also mean that the crowd saw a lot of the same stuff in every match. I developed something different to outsmart them. There were a lot of bodybuilders that weren’t good wrestlers, but they were big guys and would start clotheslining everybody. That became redundant. I just had a different style because I could.”
On what keeps him busy these days and his son Tim being a professional wrestler:
“He’s been wrestling and has a natural ability. It’s a very competitive business. Unfortunately, for the new wrestlers, there’s only one place to go to make money and that’s WWE. You’ve got a million guys that would kill you just to make it on WWE TV. I want to make sure he is ready because they have big tough guys down the road here at the WWE Performance Center. We’ll see what happens. Otherwise, I just play golf here and there and I occasionally work with WWE on projects and DVDs. Every so often I’ll fly out and get to meet the fans. I’m chilling out in my legendary status.”
Jonathan McLarty is a contributing writer for The Flagship, as well as a local sports and event photographer. Connect with him on Twitter (@JonathanMcLarty) and view his photography at McLartyPhoto.Zenfolio.com.