February 08, 2017
He’s introduced some of the most iconic wrestling figures in history, got the audience on its feet for some of the most legendary matches, and now Gary Michael Cappetta tells all as he goes on tour with his one-man show, “Beyond Bodyslams.” Cappetta is a former ring announcer for the WWWF, NWA and WCW, and is full of stories that span his 30-plus years of working in the wrestling industry, full-time and part-time.
“Beyond Bodyslams” will be held at CSz Philadelphia on 2030 Sansom Street, beginning at 3:05 P.M. on Sunday, February 19. Tickets are available here.
Cappetta has also invited The Monster Factory roster, who will be in attendance for anyone who wants to meet the wrestlers, get information about upcoming events, and, most importantly, information on their training seminars which take place February 24 and February 25.
Cappetta spoke with PhillyVoice.com ahead of his first show of the tour and talked about his time in Philly when he was younger to his time working for Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff, the time period after he left WCW in 1995 and his involvement in professional wrestling today.
PhillyVoice: Is this your first tour? How did the one-man show come about?
GMC: I had created the show a while ago, and I did perform it a couple of times. This is the first real tour that I’m doing.
I created this before wrestlers went out and appeared in clubs. I created this before Mick Foley’s show, before Jim Ross’ Q&A, before Van Dam, before Jake “The Snake.” I wanted to create another entertainment form that is pro wrestling themed. Years and years ago, there was a Broadway show that had pro wrestling as a theme. It didn’t do too well. It didn’t go too far.
I wanted to provide an alternate entertainment vehicle for the pro wrestling fan. It’s very interactive in parts and I want to celebrate and I want the people that come to celebrate being a wrestling fan. We don’t have that opportunity, you know? Unless you’re tuned into the pro wrestling, sports entertainment, whatever you want to call it, websites, or television shows, you’re not going to be exposed to like you would as a basketball fan or a football fan, to just see pro wrestling out there.
Even though it’s not a closed society like it used to be when I got into it, we still don’t have an opportunity to celebrate being wrestling fans. I want to get people at the show to remember how they became fans. Just to kind of relive that, express that and to celebrate it.
The stage show spans from my very beginning through Ring of Honor into today. I’ll talk about what’s going on today.
PV: Do you have specific memories of the shows you’ve done in Philly, whether with WCW or ROH?
GMC: There’s so much. I started at the Philadelphia Arena at 45th and Market doing the WWWF television show. We would tape every third Tuesday night and that would go across the Northeast. Then the Spectrum was built, and our Saturday night monthly shows moved from the Philadelphia Arena moved to the Spectrum. Then I came back with the NWA and we were over at the Civic Center. Then I was with Ring of Honor. Ring of Honor was born in Philadelphia. So my career spans 30-some years in Philadelphia with every generation of wrestling fan.
If I were to go way back, what would stand out to me? My first time on television was in Philadelphia. So that was huge to a 23-year-old guy.
Then, at the Spectrum, Bruno Sammartino came back for his world title and he challenged “Superstar” Billy Graham. We sold out the Spectrum three months in a row with that main event. 19,500 people. And then bringing the NWA to Philadelphia, which was such a grittier, harder-hitting product with a crowd that was more into violence before ECW.
Ring of Honor is memorable to me because, although I wasn’t the ring announcer, I did the backstage interviews. When I look at the talent I helped to coach in their interviews in Philly – just 10 years ago – I’m talking about CM Punk, AJ Styles, Colt Cabana, Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan. So when you look at those wrestlers that were on the edge of going international, that’s exciting to me. Once again, because I believe that that’s the only place where guys can learn [independent wrestling] and then create a career for themselves and become household names. I’m very proud of that.
PV: Do you mainly focus on the U.S. indie scene or do you pay attention to the indie scene internationally as well?
GMC: I focus on the U.S. indie scene because when I do an interview like I’m doing here for Philly, I want to promote that group. Monster Factory is very well known, but that’s not the same for every city. Also, my audience skews a little bit older, and they may not be aware of the independent wrestling in the area. So, I want them to know about Chaotic Wrestling in New England and AAW in Chicago and NWA Supreme in Indianapolis, and the Monster Factory in the Philly area. It’s to raise awareness of each promotion in every metropolitan area I go to.
PV: Do you make appearances at these indie shows, as well?
GMC: From time to time. When I go out to the Midwest for my stage show, I’m in Indianapolis on a Saturday and I’m in Chicago on a Sunday, on Friday, I’m going in early to a Christian Wrestling Association International show in Hamilton, Ohio and I’ll probably introduce their main event.
They do a lot of great work in sending young people overseas, so I’m going to be in the area and they asked if I would come in and do that, so I’m going to donate my time on Friday night.
PV: Do you work with EVOLVE or any of the other more prominent indie companies?
GMC: No, I worked with Gabe [Sapolsky] in the beginning of Ring of Honor in 2005-2006, but I have not followed EVOLVE at all.
PV: Do you feel like you missed out on being a part of the mainstream wrestling boom in the late 90s since you left WCW in 1995?
GMC: That’s the theme of my career. When I left WWF to – one of the reasons I left was because I had the opportunity to do the national ESPN show that was an AWA product. Then WrestleMania blew up. Then, I left WCW in May ’95, and that September, Nitro started. That’s been a theme, which is okay. There are certain things that you can’t control. And I could not control how Vince McMahon looked at me. I couldn’t control how Eric Bischoff didn’t have an appreciation for my supporting role in the show. So I couldn’t control those things. So they just didn’t think that the contributions I made were as valuable as I think it was.
It’s so much more important to me that my relationship with the fans has held together over the years and there’s a certain connection. I cannot tell you how it happens and I can’t tell you why, but there’s more to being a ring announcer than introducing wrestlers and then the decision. When you’re on the road full-time, for instance, there are times that the main event’s not going to be there. It’s the ring announcer that’s going to get in the ring and tell the crowd that and tell the crowd what they’re going to see instead. It’s a skill in order to know how to deliver bad news and how to try to take that bad news and turn it into terrific news so that you have less people asking for refunds that night.
There are a lot of different things, like the night that – and this went viral online, once again, home camcorder – of me telling folks that Ric Flair was no longer with WCW. You know, he was leaving for the WWF and he wasn’t going to be there that night and he wasn’t going to be at the pay-per-view which was a short time from that. Of course, anyone that says that is going to get booed and get things thrown at them, but it’s how you handle it and how you do it. I’m not going to change peoples’ opinions about it and I’m not going to try. It was bad news. I agree. So there’s more to a skill than a ring announcer than just introducing wrestlers.
PV: Did you have a lot of random conversations at ringside with fans?
GMC: Absolutely. That’s part of the rapport. When you’re with a major promotion, you are the representative of the promotion that’s most accessible to the fans at ringside. It all ties into that the better that my credibility is with the fans, the more effective I can be with what I do. So, when my voice gets really serious about a championship match that’s been building up for months, I had nothing to do with creating that drama, but for the moment, I can capitalize on the drama with how I emote. If I come across as being fake and phony, then I’m not doing my job and it’s not effective. I’m not helping the product at all. There are other aspects of being a ring announcer that should be important to an owner. And if a McMahon or a Bischoff doesn’t understand that, I can’t do anything about it.
PV: Did WWF ever reach out to you after you left WCW?
GMC: No. They did reach out when they were putting together their very first encyclopedia. We didn’t have a very good relationship afterward because I sued them for the use of my performances back in the 80s on their Coliseum Video series. They also lifted my voice and used it in the audio tape of a Hulk Hogan workout set. And nobody would dare ever do that, but I did. I didn’t think it was fair or right. I’m not saying I sold any video tapes, it’s not because I was on it that they sold more, but I believe that it enhanced the enjoyment of the people that watched it. It’s not like a Jesse Ventura case where he won $900,000 against them because he’s a headliner.
When I came off the road with WCW – and I would average between 180-210 nights a year, and those are just events – and I was flying home and you lose that other day, it was very difficult to make the transition and I needed to decompress. I just needed a little transition. And that’s when I started to write. When I finished with WCW, I took two years and I wrote “Bodyslams.” I didn’t work anywhere else; I didn’t announce anywhere else, I just spent a solid two years writing a book.
PV: So, if another opportunity arose while you were writing, would you have taken that or finish writing the book?
GMC: It would depend on what it was. When I left the McMahons, you just couldn’t imagine their promotion that’s turned into the WWE could’ve hit the heights that it did. I was teaching [Spanish] during a lot of those early years, so I wasn’t going to leave something that provided me stability, a pension, and health benefits. The only reason that I left a teaching position to go full-time with wrestling is because Ted Turner had bought the NWA. The way I was looking at it was that it’s a major media corporation, so that was a more sound opportunity that I was willing to take a bet on, which paid off as it turned out.
PV: Did a promotion ever use you as a translator for wrestlers since you were a Spanish teacher prior?
GMC: The time that I used Spanish with WCW was to do the commentary for a television show in the Los Angeles market, so I was in the studio doing commentary in Spanish. That made me more valuable to them because they had Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone, Chris Cruise, Gordon Solie, Lance Russell, you know no one could speak Spanish.
There was one time during the Clash of the Champions … the introduction of El Gigante. I interviewed him in Spanish in the middle of the ring on live TV and did the translation as we were doing the interview for the people at home.
PV: Do you still keep in touch with any of the guys you used to work with in mainstream wrestling?
GMC: No. There was such tenseness between WCW and WWF, that it was considered hazardous to even interact with the talent from the other promotion. They were so paranoid about who was spying on who. Most of the people that I’ve kept in touch with are the people that I’ve met on the indie scene, some of which have gone on to international stuff. But the other thing is that part of my contract when I was with WCW – well, they had a rule that they would only pay for your rental car if three guys traveled together – and I knew I wouldn’t last. I wouldn’t do that. I needed my space. So part of my WCW contract was that I traveled alone. They paid for my rental car, they paid for my hotel, and I had corporate perks with performance money. So I had the best of both worlds. I was very lucky. And once in a while when I wanted company, I would ask guys like Mick Foley, The Undertaker, Dutch Mantell, Ron Simmons to travel with me, it would just depend on what’s going on. And they liked traveling with me like I said, they paid for my hotel, they paid for my food, they paid, you know, everything. Not just airfare, which everyone got. So I would share my benefits with the guys that were traveling with me.
PV: Do you have a preview of your behind-the-scenes stories that you’ll expand on during your show?
GMC: Yeah, just like a band that tours that’s a well-known band and has their greatest hits … I have my greatest hits. There are stories that people always ask me about, incidents that I just happened to be present for. So one of the top ones is the night Mick Foley lost his ear in Germany. They tossed his ear to me, and I took it backstage to try to save it. Not only do I tell the story of what happened that night – it was a non-televised house show – but there was this German fan in the audience that had a camcorder. And I have the footage of that match, so people can see how it happened.
Another story – and these are just circumstances that I just happen to fall into – the night in England when Arn Anderson and Sid Vicious had their fight in a hotel, which turned out pretty bloody. That was outside my hotel room. Arn’s room was right across the hall from mine and Sid had come back to challenge him. So I’ll be talking about that, too.
That’s the beauty of this kind of a show. If people enjoy it in Philly, I can come back in a while and do another show. I have 40 years of experiences, so I’m just picking certain stories from my book, so that’s the theme of the night. That’s why it’s called Beyond Bodyslams. I’ll tell you stories from the book and stories that are beyond the book that are not included. And, of course, you’re not going to get a visual presentation of that story unless you come to the show because it’s on video.