Before there was EXTREME there was TWA!!!
Philadelphia has always been the hot bed for professional wrestling. In the 80’s there was one man that was Extreme before ECW’s Tod Gordon and Paul Heyman. This man had the vision to offer the blood thirsty wrestling fans a product that they could sink their teeth into called TWA, Tri State Wrestling. TWA’s motto was, “They wrestled, they brawled, they did it all” TWA was a company for every smart mark wrestling fan to enjoy. The man behind this company has been in the shadows for the past 25 years until now. RF VIDEO had the pleasure of sitting down with TWA owner/promoter Joel Goodhart as he breaks his silence for the first time anywhere exclusivley with RFVIDEO.
Everyone had questions for Joel Goodhart including myself, and the big one was, what the hell happened? What went wrong and where did Joel go after he promoted his final show with Buddy Rogers vs Buddy Landell. We get all the questions answered that you have been dying to know.
The interview starts off where we talk about the origins of the Squared Circle fan club which I was a member myself. Joel talks about working with his two partners at the time to create a brand in the Philadelphia market right here in Langhorne PA at the I95 Marketplace. Joel and his partner also landed a radio show and you will hear all about the trials and tribulations of Rasslin Radio. Joel talks about how they landed on WIP after being on a few stations before. It wasn’t long after that when TWA was founded and they promoted their first event ever at my Neshaminy High School. You will hear how the company grew from a minor little indy show into something that is still talked about today.
Joel talks about his bus trips to Memphis and of course who could forget the lunch Q&A’s as the Bus Stop and Champs in Northeast Philly. You will hear all about the Philly wars between WWE and NWA. How did Joel build his relationships with the NWA wrestlers? He has great stories on Ric Flair and what it was like working with the entire NWA crew during the 80’s including Sting, Muta, Abby, Lex Luger, Steiners, LOD and so many other legends.
As time went on the TWA got bigger and better and so did the star power. Joel was bringing in the top indy talent from around the country before anyone else. All eyes were on his promotion and he had a rabid fan base made up of all hardcore wrestling fans. We talk in depth about all of his major shows that took place at Temple University.
What was it like for Joel to work with Jerry Lawler, and how did he get the Von Erichs to come to Philly when they would never leave Texas? What was a young Paul Heyman like to work with? What was Ted Petty’s role with the company. Who was his booker? How did the Sandman get started in the business? What was Abby like to work with behind the scenes. Was The Original Sheik and Sabu hard to control? Who came up with the innovative TWA stipulation matches? Did any of the boys try to take advantage of him? All of these questions get answered.
We talk about all the historic feuds from the TWA era like DC Drake and Larry Winters. Joel talks in depth about the entire Eddie Gilbert vs Cactus Jack feud including the infamous 2-3 falls match the barbed wire match that is one of the sickest matches to ever take place in Philly. What happened when the rope broke when Owen Hart made a rare apperance? What was it like dealing with some of the biggest names in the business during his run?
As the company got bigger, so did the expenses. When did Joel realize that he might have been in over his head and how did Tod Gordon get involved in TWA and what exactly was his role? Joel talks in great detail and all the major matches of the companies history including any road blocks that he had to face. How did the NWA react to Joel running in their market?
Of course the question that everyone wanted to know is what happened to the scheduled Winter Challenge show that was going to take place in 1992 with Buddy Landell vs Buddy Rogers? What did Joel have planned and why did he leave the business without a trace. For the first time ever, Joel comments on why he left and who did he tell? He has a message to the fans who always wanted to know where the money went. Did he have any regrets and what was the fall out between Tod Gordon and Joel. Joel even talks about how much money he lost in TWA.
Another big question that we talked about was if Joel was the ultimate money mark and you will be shocked to hear what he has to say. Did Joel follow ECW and what were his thoughts on Tod and Paul Heyman taking his baby to the next level.
If you’re a fan of the Philadelphia wrestling scene this interview is a must for you to view. This is the true story of the rise and fall of Extreme as Joel should get all the credit in the world for making a impact to the sport of professional wrestling as he is the true godfather of Hardcore!!!
What are you first memories of the business?
Who were your favorites growing up?
What made Philadephia a great wrestling town?
Why is Philly so bloodthirsty?
Memories of the WWF vs. NWA wars in Philly?
How did you first get involved with doing the wrestling radio show and where did the idea come from?
When did you realize you were tapping into a smarter fan base?
What was the reaction from WCW and WWF to the show at the time?
How did you first meet Tod Gordon?
How did Tod end up becoming a backer?
Was it always the plan to run shows off the radio show or did that come later?
Was it hard to get a license from the comission?
Memories of the different bus trips and luncheons and how they all came together?
What led to you running your first show?
Memories of your debut show in Newark, Delaware with Don Muraco vs. Dr D David Schultz?
When do you decide to start doing the big quarterly shows?
One of the criticisms of you as a booker and promoter is that you brought in too many names. Do you think that’s fair or at the time, was it the only way to compete with WWF and WCW?
With using some many names, there had to be guys trying to get out of doing jobs or playing politics – any memories or stories of what it was like dealing with so many egos and big names?
Anyone ever hold you up for money?
Who was the hardest name to deal with?
Tri-State was really one of the first indy companies to try and brand itself – talk about what you think made the company stand out?
Was it hard dealing with the PA Commission when it came to blood, brawling, etc.?
Today everyone goes on Facebook and thinks they can draw. You had the radio show but talk about what was done to promote the shows locally that may not be done today by independent promoters?
When did you launch the TWA school and who were the first trainers?
Memories of different students who came out of the school?
The Sandman and Peaches
Memories of the first Winter Challenge -January 27, 1990 in Philadelphia at McGonigle Hall
Rockin’ Rebel beat Joey Maggs.
WWA Junior Heavyweight Champ Johnny Hotbody beat Tony Stetson via DQ.
Larry Winters beat D.C. Drake in a “stretcher” match.
Bam Bam Bigelow DCO Terry Gordy.
Junkyard Dog pinned Paul Jones in a “dog collar” match.
Nikita Koloff beat Manny Fernandez via DQ.
AWA World Champ Larry Zbyszko pinned David Sammartino (seconded by Bruno Sammartino).
Starting with the Spring Spectacular in March 1990, you started bringing in Memphis talents as Jerry Lawler faced Kerry Von Erich and Austin Idol wrestled Paul Orndorff. Later, you used Eddie Gilbert quite a bit – talk about what made Memphis special and why you were bringing in those talents to the Northeast.
You used Bam Bam Bigelow quite a lot early on. Memories of Bigelow?
Memories of the late Ted Petty, who worked as Cheetah Kid for you?
Spring Spectacular Results:
March 31, 1990 in Philadelphia, PA
McGonigle Hall drawing 2,000
Jules Strongbow beat Randy Lewis (11:48) via DQ.
Rockin’ Rebel beat CN Redd (12:59).
Johnny Hotbody NC Tony Stetson (11:26) in a “taped fist first blood” match.
Tom Pritchard beat Cheetah Kid (16:40).
D.C. Drake beat Larry Winters (37:00) in an “I quit” match.
Misty Blue Simmes beat Kat LeRoux (9:52).
Paul Orndorff pinned Austin Idol.
Kerry Von Erich beat USWA Unified Champ Jerry Lawler via DQ.
Tully Blanchard beat Bam Bam Bigelow in a “steel cage” match.
Memories of Summer Sizzler 1990
Paddy O’Brien beat Boy Gone Bad.
Tom Brandi & Mike Kaluha DCO The American Pitbulls.
J.T. Smith beat Mr. Sandman.
Larry Winters, Rockin’ Rebel, & Tony Stetson beat D.C. Drake, Johnny Hotbody, & Mondo Kleen in an “elimination” match. Kleen pinned Rebel. Hotbody pinned Stetson. Winters pinned Kleen. Winters pinned Hotbody. Winters pinned Drake.
The Cheetah Kid beat Tom Pritchard to win the American Brass Knuckles Title.
Bob Orton, Jr. pinned Don Muraco.
Jerry Lawler beat Austin Idol via DQ.
Nikita Koloff beat Manny Fernandez in a “Russian chain” match.
Paul Orndorff pinned Tully Blanchard.
Memories of the following:
Where did the idea of putting Woman with DC Drake come from?
Memories of Drake?
Why was Rockin’ Rebel booked to win the TWA title only to then have it held up?
At Autumn Armagedon 1990, you book Eddie Gilbert vs. Cactus Jack for the first time in TWA. Memories of how that came together. Why do you think they clicked so well together?
Memories of Eddie as a performer and a mind for the business?
Same question for Cactus?
Thoughts on Cactus’ success in the business?
Memories of the night they did the three gimmick matches in a row?
Cactus wrote that Gilbert balked at following him to WCW to continue the feud because he knew it would never live up to what they did in TWA – what’s your reaction to that?
First memories of dealing with Terry Funk and what he brought to TWA?
Why was Bulldog Bob Brower made his manager?
Memories of Autumn Armageddon 1990:
Eddie Gilbert pinned Cactus Jack.
Sandman pinned JT Smith.
Adrian Street pinned Jimmy Valiant.
DC Drake pinned Rockin’ Rebel to win the held-up TWA Title.
Rockin Rebel won a “reverse cage battle royal.” Also in the match were Bounty Hunter, Cheetah Kid, Crybaby Waldo, Ghetto Blaster, Ron Shaw, Top Gun, Triton, Larry Winters, and eleven others.
Tony Stetson beat Johnny Hotbody in a “hair vs. hair” match.
Kevin Von Erich & Chris Adams DCO Al Perez & Austin Idol.
Manny Fernandez DDQ Abdullah the Butcher.
Jerry Lawler beat Terry Funk via DQ.
Where did the idea for the Reverse Cage Battle Royal come from?
Who was coming up with all the crazy stipulation matches on the big shows?
Were they just an excuse to get all the students on the show?
Did you ever have problems with the buildings over the content of the shows?
Stetson vs. Hotbody is a big feud at the Mike’s Original Sports Bar shows. Memories of the falls count anywhere matches, stretcher matches and brawls they had?
Are you surprised they didn’t have great success after TWA closed?
Memories of the TWA rivalry with Dennis Coralluzo?
Memories of Winter Challenge 1991:
Al Perez pinned Stan Lane (13:08).
JT Smith won a “ringmaster rumble.” Also in the match were: Don E. Allen, Bulldog Brower Jr., Michael Bruno, Cry Baby Waldo, Ghetto Blaster, Hoss, Jimmy Jannetty, Johnny O, Glenn Osbourne, Rick Perez, CN Redd, Rockin’ Rebel, John Rock, Sabu, Sandman, Wild Child, and Larry Winters.
Ivan Koloff beat Manny Fernandez (9:19) in a “Russian chain” match.
Cactus Jack pinned Eddie Gilbert (12:23) in a “falls count anywhere” match.
The Sheik DDQ Abdullah the Butcher (5:03).
Tony Stetson pinned Johnny Hotbody (12:57) in a “barbed wire” match.
JT Smith beat TWA Champ DC Drake (18:26) via DQ.
Jerry Lawler beat USWA Unified Champ Terry Funk (11:39) via DQ in a “fan participation lumberjack” match.
What as the idea behind the fan participation Lumberjack match?
Memories of the JT Smith vs. DC Drake feud?
Do you think Smith should have been a bigger star in the business?
Memories of booking and dealing with the Sheik?
Sabu worked a lot of the TWA show when Sheik was booked – memories of him and whether you thought he would become the huge star he became?
Memories of dealing with the following:
Abdullah the Butcher
Dr Death Steve Williams
Billy Jack Haynes
Was it hard getting spot shows given the wild nature of the product?
Memories of Spring Spectacular II in May 1991:
*Pitbull Spike won a “ringmaster rumble.” Also in the match were: Bulldog Brower Jr., Michael Bruno, Cry Baby Waldo, Delaware Dynamo, Johnny O, Glenn Osbourne, Rick Perez, Pitbull Rex, CN Redd, John Rock, Sandman, and Tony Stetson.
Johnny Hotbody & Larry Winters beat Jimmy Jannetty & Rockin’ Rebel to become the first TWA Tag Champs.
Eddie Gilbert NC Cactus Jack in a “barbed wire” match.
Al Perez & Buddy Landell beat the Fabulous Ones via DQ.
TWA Champ DC Drake pinned JT Smith.
USWA Unified Champ Jerry Lawler beat Honkytonk Man via DQ.
Paul Orndorff beat Rick Rude via DQ.
Did the Commission give you any issues with doing a barbed wire match?
Memories of working with Rick Rude?
Memories of the Pitbulls?
Memories of Summer Sizzler II – August 1991
Sandman pinned Rockin’ Rebel (8:26).
Cactus Jack pinned Eddie Gilbert (16:13) in a “falls count anywhere” match. This is the first of three falls.
Luna Vachon beat Madusa Micelli via DQ.
Eddie Gilbert beat Cactus Jack (9:50) in a “stretcher” match. This was the second of three falls.
Cry Baby Waldo beat The Spoiler & Rick Perez (4:23) in a “handicap” match when he pinned Perez.
Buddy Landell DDQ Austin Idol (12:17).
The Fantastics (Rogers & Fulton) beat Stan Lane & Jim Cornette (14:33) when Fulton pinned Cornette.
Larry Winters, DC Drake, & Johnny Hotbody beat JT Smith, Tony Stetson, & CN Redd (35:03) in an “elimination” match. Bam Bam Bigelow was the special referee. Drake pinned Redd. Smith pinned Drake to win the TWA Title. Smith was counted out. Winters pinned Stetson.
Eddie Gilbert DDQ Cactus Jack in a “steel cage” match. This was the final fall of their match.
Memories of the final major TWA event, Autumn Armageddon II in September 1991
Sandman won a “last blood battle royal” (13:10). Also in the match were: Mr. Anthony, Ernesto Benefica, Michael Bruno, Cry Baby Waldo, Ghetto Blaster, Jimmy Jannetty, Johnny O, Glenn Osbourne, Rick Perez, Rockin’ Rebel, Sabu, and Tony Stetson.
TWA Champ JT Smith pinned DC Drake (12:48).
Tony Stetson pinned Sandman (7:04).
The Blackhearts beat Johnny Hotbody & DC Drake (sub for Larry Winters) (16:03) to win the TWA Tag Title when Drake was pinned.
Owen Hart pinned Takayuki Iizuka (21:40).
Terry Funk DDQ Kevin Sullivan (11:02).
Eddie Gilbert & Madusa Micelli beat Cactus Jack & Luna Vachon (12:22) when Micelli pinned Vachon.
Abdullah the Butcher beat The Sheik (5:17) in a “steel cage” match.
How do you get Iizuka on the show?
Buddy Landell comes in and wins the TWA title. Is that to begin the build for Buddy Rogers to return to the ring?
If no, when does the Rogers angle come about?
How was Rogers to deal with?
Was he getting the belt?
Let’s talk Winter Challenge in January 1992 – why did the show not happen?
This scheduled matches for this show were…what would have happened?
Buddy Rogers vs. Buddy Landel
Steve Williams & Terry Gordy vs. Dan Kroffat & Doug Furnas
Eddie Gilbert vs. Kevin Sullivan (falls count anywhere)
Chris Benoit vs. Shiro Koshinaka
Tod Gordon has said you weren’t returning phone calls in the weeks before the show, is that true?
When did you realize there was no way to financially do the show and what did you do to try and save it?
Why did you even go on to do the one last radio episode if you were shutting down?
What was the reaction from the wrestlers when you shut down?
Do you feel you fucked over the fans?
Do you think that if you hadn’t shut down but had simply postponed, things might have worked out better?
Do you regret not being able to promote Buddy Landell vs. Buddy Rogers?
Do you regret how it ended?
What was your reaction to Tod Gordon forming ECW in the wake of Tri-State?
Did you ever want to get involved?
Seeing how well ECW did in the wake of Tri-State, do you regret shutting down?
Do you think Tri-State gets the respect it deserves for setting the table for ECW?
Thoughts on Paul Heyman?
Talk about going into the insurance business after Tri-State?
You had sent a mailer out to wrestling fans plugging the business with the tagline “Goodhart is back.” There were some fans upset about that after the way Tri-State closed – did you expect that reaction?
How closely did you follow wrestling once you left it?
Was there anyone in the business you stayed in touch with?
Was there anyone from Tri-State you thought would go farther than they did?
Are you amazed Sandman made it all the way to WWE?
How did the Tri-State reunion show come about?
Was it weird to get involved in the business again?
Any matches you wish you could have booked that never came to be?
What do you think the legacy of Tri-State should be?
What do you think your legacy in the business should be?
Any final words for the fans?