A Chat With Rudy Boy Gonzalez
By Jeremy Staples
What made you want to get into the wrestling business?
I was never a wrestling fan as a kid, my dad took me to a couple of shows when I was around 10, but I really wasn’t interested.
It wasn’t till I met Joe Blanchard who was a friend of my high school football coach and had started a wrestling school and had asked if I could help with the ring in a couple of shows that I got hooked, and that was when I was 18.
Early on you wrestled for Joe Blanchard’s Southwest Championship Wrestling, and Tully Blanchard is credited as being one of your trainers. What were they like to work for?
Tully was Tully. What you saw on TV was what you saw in person.
Joe was the greatest. When I made the decision to get into the business, Joe Blanchard chewed my butt from one end of the office to the other. I wasn’t supposed to get into the business. I was just there to train till I went back to college. He said everything to change my mind, but I made a decision. I learned a lot from not only Mr. Blanchard, but from Tully, Wahoo McDaniel, Chavo Guerrero, Manny Fernandez, Dick Slater… Everyone. In ring stuff, etiquette, the art of protecting the business. The SERIOUSNESS of protecting the business. Everyday and everybody was a learning experience. It was good times. I saw a guy, a friend get beat up for giving away the dates when we were in certain towns to the opposition.
You came up in the business right when the territories were dying off. How do you think not having them has affected wrestling as a whole?
There’s nowhere to really learn, and guys don’t want to really learn the right way anyway. A lot of guys like being the ‘hometown hero’. They stay in their area forever, and won’t venture out of their ‘comfort zone’, which is usually home. Part of the learning process is traveling. They have real jobs, or as guys call them ‘shoot jobs’, and this is really a hobby for them. Very few guys today make this, or look at this as their bread and butter. It’s too hard to do that. There’s the fear of starving.
14 years ago I saw a couple of kids eat peanut butter tacos, and ramen noodles. Slept on air mattress, barely had money to do laundry. But they trained like madmen. Did all the shit jobs like flyers, setting up the ring, setting up chairs. Worked their tails off during training and in their matches. When opportunity came, they were ready. That was Lance Cade, Shooter Schultz, Bryan Danielson, and Brian Kendrick. Today Bryan Danielson is on top of the world. Hes a former World Champion with the biggest wrestling organization in the world. Kendrick and Paul London held the Tag Team titles longer than any other tag team. Lance was on the verge of becoming a huge star. They worked to get to where they got. London was attending college when he was in ROH, and used to study on the road while we were traveling. If you want to get under my skin, say ‘I can’t’. Guys can do whatever they want if they put their mind to it. Again, once they hit that comfort level, they’re useless.
In 1999 you along with Shawn Michael’s, Paul Diamond, and Jose Lothario opened the Shawn Michael’s Wrestling Academy. How did that come together?
Actually it was Lothario, Ken Johnson and myself. Paul came in later, but wasn’t part of the Academy. Shawn brought in Jose and Ken out of respect, as they were the guys that broke him in. Shawn’s explanation in bringing me in was that he knew me from the area, and respected my work. I feel he had a whole country to choose from, there’s Barry Horowitz, and plenty of other guys, but he hand-picked me. I’m not sure Lothario was for the idea, but I returned the favor by being loyal, worked hard, being reliable, and helping with his students as much as possible. I read where when Jimmy Johnson was brought in for the Dallas Cowboy job, he divorced his wife, and moved to Dallas and jumped in feet first. I wasn’t going that far, but it’s safe to say I lived in that gym. I had an opportunity to pass on what I was taught, and I enjoyed it.
The academy produced several future stars. Wrestlers such as Daniel Bryan, Brian Kendrick, Paul London, Lance Cade, Hernandez, and Matt Bentley got their start through the school. You don’t really see wrestling schools turn out stars like that anymore, do you think it has to do with the way you were brought up in the business, and then you in turn passed on that old school mentality?
I feel that’s EXACTLY why. We stressed discipline, respecting the business, hard work, dedication and once you stepped through the curtain, you were ‘on’. Just the way we were taught when we were kids. Keep your mouth shut… You know the rest. When the four boys got their developmental deals, they just fit right in. No attitudes, no discipline problems. When we were kids breaking in, we were taught to appreciate this business, and me and Shawn stressed that. We never promised anyone anything except to be trained and treated right. In fact, that’s why Jose was let go, he wanted to ‘old school’ the students. Run them off. I understood his side, but we were now into 1999 going into the 2000’s. that stuff was done in the 80’s and before. Guys on their own dropped out. We didn’t have to run roughshod over anyone. Those that stuck around were the mentally tough kids. They got it, and looking back, it showed.
A lot of schools today try to lure guys in by making ‘promises’ of the big time. Or doing a match in a few weeks or less. That’s virtually impossible. Well, it’s not impossible, the quality of the match would just be bunk.
Another thing is, guys don’t invest in their gear anymore. It’s crazy. And if you tell them something they get butt hurt. I was given an opportunity to do a match because of a ‘no-show’. I was loaned a pair of boots by Eric Embry, and a pair of trunks by Bobby Fulton. After the match I was told I did a good job, but I needed to get my own gear. Until then, ‘Thank You’.
So the next day I started doing anything and everything to scrounge up money for a pair of boots from Bill Ash and a pair of trunks from ‘K and H’. A few weeks later I was doing matches. Guys spend more money on tattoos than they do on their gear. And then cry about how expensive gear is. ‘
Daniel Bryan is, in my eyes, the biggest success story to come out of the academy. What do you think of his accomplishments? Did you see him becoming as big of a star as he did?
When the boys were training, we knew we had a couple of special kids. It was just a matter of them being focused through all the BS they would face once they left the confines of the SMWA. I won’t lie, we protected them, but at the same time, taught them through our own experiences what kind of jacked up business this could be. And we basically covered both ends of the spectrum. Shawn was the guy that ‘made it’ and was the Star. I was the indy guy that struggled for decent paydays and such. I did all the ring work, Shawn stayed in their ear. Lance was the only one that really stood out. He was 6’5 and 230 or so, and was still growing. I remember Shawn would walk by him with a smile and say ‘I smell money’. Those were good times.
There were a few others that stood out and had a ton of potential, but just lacked… Something. I can’t put my finger on it.
We sent some guys, Ruben Cruz, Oz, Michael Shane, and Kris Kruegar to ECW. I had heard Heyman actually had plans for Shane.
Dragon (Daniel Bryan) and Brian Kendrick had an ongoing competition from day one. Brian was the emotional ‘Pilllman’ firecracker. Dragon was always calm and cool. Both were like sponges. Kendrick brought in a note pad every day, and was always writing stuff. Dragon would listen and retain.
We had the students do mock matches, and Brian and Dragon paired up. The night before on Monday Nitro Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho had this unbelievable match, and I remembered it from a couple of nifty things they did. Yes, I recorded that stuff and watched RAW and Nitro when I would get home from the gym.
So the next day, Dragon and Brian Kendrick had the same exact match as their ‘mock match’. I recognized a couple of the moves, and I started whispering to Shawn what would be next. Shawn thought I had scripted out their match for them. I told him that was what Chris and Dean had done the night before on Nitro. So when they were done, they came up to us for their critique, and Shawn asked them ‘did Rudy help you guys’, and they both said ‘no’. He said that was unbelievable for two kids like you, where did you learn to work like that’, Dragon said ‘Makenko / Jericho last night on Nitro. I memorized the match’.
When they got released from developmental in Memphis, Me and Dragon talked they had told him to get ‘worldly’ experience. I told him what that meant, which was basically to get out there and keep working. And that’s what he did. With Dragon there was a sense that he pretty much had a plan, and he wasn’t going to be held back.
Am I proud of him? You betcha. Beyond what words could describe. Watching him walk into the gym on day one to watching him on RAW… I’m speechless. But I’m proud of all the guys that got ‘there’ whether its Kendrick, London, Masada, Matt Bentley, Hernandez, and even the kids that are roaming the Indys and not getting discouraged.
Tragically Lance Cade passed away in 2010 of an accidental overdose, what is your opinion on drug use in wrestling, and the excuse of “needing them to get by”?
Guys use them. It’s there. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. Being around and seeing what I’ve seen, of course they are bad for you. But guys have the mentality of ‘it wont happen to me’ In this line of work, your body is beaten constantly. For me, Advil does the trick. For others it’s more than just Advil. We all know about the chances of dependency. You can rest till your body heals, and possibly lose your job, or work through it. I met an old timer, his name slips my mind, but his fingers were disfigured from being broken and not placed right. He had a lump on his forearm from where he broke his arm, and it healed on its own, and calcium had accumulated and formed a hard lump. He told me about his injuries and made it very clear, he never took a drug, medicine, pain killer or any narcotic to ease the pain. Just whiskey.
A lot of the guys that have OD’ed, I knew. I saw Chris Candido not long before he died. We were in Fort Worth. He was fried out of his mind. Last thing I said to him was ‘take care of yourself’. He said ‘I will Rudy, thanks’ and him and Sunny and Sandman left the building. I knew Bobby Duncum Jr. I knew Louie Spicolli, I knew Eddie Guerrero. I know the whole Guerrero family. You don’t think it’s hard to read the dirt sheets and see another familiar name?
Lance and then the following year a kid named Spiro were the hardest deaths to take. I really had a connection with those guys. I trained them, taught them, talked about problems, personal and business. Ate with them, drove with them. Part of training is having that ‘talk’ about not falling into the drug culture. And every kid says ‘it won’t happen to me’. And I’m sure Curt Hennig said the same thing. Some guys ‘need’ them more than others.
I think as a ‘brotherhood’ as we’re supposed to be, we need to recognize when one of us has a problem and act on it. I’ve been told ‘its none of our business’. Bullshit, if it means a guy getting pissed at me and living, or a guy dying and I say nothing, then hate me now, cause seeing a guy with a smile and personality that lights up a room, a guy that will go out of his way to help you, a guy that still respects me enough to call after a Pay Per View match for any suggestions, laying in a coffin motionless is not good. Not good at all. Today there is so much a guy could learn from a Curt Hennig or a Rick McGraw or Gino Hernandez or Brad Armstrong. Good lord. The talent that is upstairs could outdraw and out work anything Vince has today.
The school is still alive and well, now known as the Texas Wrestling Academy. What is the best part about helping to mold the young guys and introduce them to the wrestling world?
Watching them realize its not exactly what they see on TV, and realizing its not for them, or this is what they chose, and they’re going to face it and own it. There’s obstacles all over the place when a guy commits to training. Time, money, work, wives, girlfriends, jobs, sickness, loneliness, criticism, anything and everything. I’ve heard it all. The guys that ‘get it’ and want it, don’t let those things affect them. It’s just another bump in the road. Just a bump. The guys that end up quitting realized that there’s more to this than pyro, TV, big crowds, and fancy set ups.
I guess another one of my satisfactions is getting them on a show somewhere, and the promoters asking ‘how many matches has this kid had’ and when I tell them 1 or 2 they’re shocked.
Watching a kid hesitate to do something that I have learned to take for granted, just being tossed across the ring, and in time they’re doing the same, is a satisfaction..
After years and years we’re told ‘don’t fall down’ and here I come saying ‘take a bump’. Even though guys see it done on TV with regularity, there’s that fear of doing it for the first time. But then by the end if the next day, guys are bumping like crazy for anything. That’s where I get my ‘satisfaction’, when a guy finally ‘gets it’. It can be at anything, wrestling, training, cardio, dieting, anything that pertains to becoming a better product or worker, cause as an individual in this business, you are part of the ‘product’.
You were involved in one of the more infamous wrestling angles of the last decade when you portrayed an illegal immigrant that was trying to cross the border, only to be stopped and literally kicked out by John Bradshaw Layfield. There was a lot of people who were upset by that, What did you think of that segment?
I thought it was great. What was there to be upset about? It was and still is an issue… illegal crossings. The program brought it to your living room. Eddie was the defender of the illegal alien.
On the back story… You have no idea how many people I reached out to do that spot. Bruce Prichard called one afternoon and just asked if I knew of a Hispanic family that wanted to do a segment with WWE. It was crazy. Guys asked what’s the pay? What am I doing? Are they gonna offer me a contract? I had no clue what it was for. So I called Bruce and told him I was having a hard time getting the people he wanted. He said ‘why don’t you do it’ so i said OK. So he said that Paul London was gonna be part of it, and to pick him up in Austin, Tx and be in Athens, Tx by 6pm the next day. No problem. We only did like 6 takes but we started at 7pm and ended at almost midnight. Once I got there I was told what we were gonna do. I thought it was cool.
The first take, John Layfield caught me with the toe of his boot right in the middle of my ass… Jesus I was paralyzed for a second. I’ve known John for awhile so I knew it wasn’t intentional, but… Damn.
Then at first they has us running towards a body of water that was supposed to represent the Rio Grande, but then one of JBL’s people said there was an alligator somewhere out there, and it wouldn’t be such a good idea. We were on his property.
London’s job was to be the translator of this family they got, which was a lady and her 3 kids and her mother. I was the husband. It turns out they knew English.
When they aired it live it was at a Smackdown show in San Antonio. In the afternoon I had came up with some guys to be used as extras. Eddie came up to me and gave me a hug and said ‘great job bro, that was good shit’. Then Bruce came up and said it looked good on video. We were standing by the ring and Vince walked up and shook my hand and said ‘I very much appreciate your help in getting this over. Thank You’
I had a lump in my throat like you wouldn’t believe. Vince F’ing McMahon was thanking me. lol
Then during the Smackdown taping they showed the video, and of course JBL got booed but when they showed the illegal alien guy, you could hear people say my name.
I think it’s been called one of Smackdown’s greatest moments.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to break into the business?
Do your research. If you look on the Internet, there’s hundreds of ‘wrestling schools’. Ask questions. If guys give you the brush off cause your asking questions then don’t mess with them.
In reality, there’s only a handful of actual wrestling schools out there. A lot of guys will just take your money.
There’s Afas place in Florida, OVW, the Monster Factory, Booker T’s and Killer Brooks, the Texas Wrestling Academy… those are the ones off the top of my head.
Ask who the trainer is. Ask if you can sit in and watch a session. DON’T fall for ‘you pay $x till I say your ready’. A lot of times, your never ready and your just paying a guys beer habit. Ask who’s been trained from that school. I wouldn’t go to a ‘wrestling school’ that has a ring set up in a back yard. But that also depends on who it is. If Ric Flair has a ring in his backyard and he’s breaking guys in, it might be worth a look. But if King jack off Hart has a ring set up in his back yard, I wouldn’t go near it. That’s why I say ‘do research’.
Nothing wrong with a school practicing ‘old school’ methods, up to a point. Get into this business to help improve it. There’s already a bunch of riff-raff polluting this business. Don’t add to it. It’s hard to explain but when you add to the lower element, your lowering yourself and no one will take you seriously. Not the other wrestlers, and certainly not the fans. In reference to an earlier question, a true trainer won’t let his guys get into the ring looking like riff raff.
Being a pro wrestler isn’t a Friday, Saturday or Sunday thing. It’s a lifestyle. Train in the ring and in a gym. Diet. Conduct yourself as a professional. EVEN IF YOUR STILL TRAINING. Look the part. Wrestling gear is so important in our business. You don’t buy your stuff from Hot Topic, Walmart, or Academy. It’s an investment. With the boys, check your ego at the door. With the fans, be confident, but not an idiot. Don’t ask for praise, they’ll give it to you when you deserve it. Treat this as a business. Cause it is. Protect it. Sure the whole world knows its F A K E, but you have the opportunity to show them differently all the time. Put a seed of doubt in their mind. Learn your craft. The sign says ‘Wrestling’ not ‘Gymnastics’
And last but not least, I don’t care who your trainer may be, there’s no guarantees. Shawn had MANY kids come through his school. I have many kids that still come in, but Shawn couldn’t make guarantees to a lucrative WWE contract. Neither can I. No one can. Don’t believe them if a guy starts throwing letters around, WWE, TNA, AAA, CMLL or whoever… walk away.
Look for schools that offer the basics as its primary training curriculum. If they say ‘we can make you the next Rey Misterio’, stop. There’s already a Rey Misterio. And a Sin Cara. Learn to create a foundation for yourself.
Once you’ve been trained, work for promoters that will help you. Don’t whore yourself out to every guy with a ring. A lot of times those guys aren’t worth the duct tape covering the ropes, so they created their own ‘promotion’. I tell my guys to avoid those promotions like the plague.
Do you have any upcoming shows/seminars that you would like to plug?
I’ll be doing a clinic in Ramer, Tennessee with Super Pro Wrestling
Association on June 1st from 10am till 4pm.
Those interested can contact Tina Gant at (731) 439-1284.
On June 8th Im doing another clinic with Permian Pro Wrestling Association at the Midland Center in Midland, Tx.
For more information on that clinic, individuals can contact Shance Williams at (432) 210.2350.
Both clinics will have a show afterwards, and I will be part of them as well.
A lot of guys are doing these 2 hour ‘talk’ clinics now. I try and cover a lot of ground as it may be the only time I can make contact with these individuals. Some stuff they may have heard before, some stuff they haven’t. We get in the ring and do warm ups, drills, exercises anything and everything that will help each guy coming out even a little bit better. I’m not trying to change the wrestling world, just trying to make it a little bit better. I hate seeing kids try and do a million things in the ring cause they think that’s what it takes to be ‘entertaining’. That’s not true.
I let guys ask questions, we talk, we cover gear, nutrition, history… I cover a lot of ground in the 4 or 5 hours.
I run the Texas Wrestling Academy still and I start a new group the first Monday of each month. The TWA isn’t a ‘boot camp’ type of training program, but we do take things seriously.
I also run Texas Wrestling Entertainment, and we run shows all over Texas and usually the last Saturday of each month in San Antonio. The guys that go through the TWA have that avenue to where once they have reached a certain point in training, they are then given a spot on the TWE roster. Same concept as we did with HBK’s school.
And basically anyone out there that wants to be critiqued can get a spot on the show and show me what they got. And then afterwards we break down their matches.
How can people contact you?
My phone number is 210.326.1520, you can call or text, and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
The TWA location is
1334 S Flores
San Antonio, Tx
If anyone wants to drop by and train with us, call me and let me know you’re coming.