WF: We are delighted to have won another great one of CWA respectively WCW for an interview, thank you!
IT: It’s my pleasure Markus to do this interview with you. It’s been a long time, we’ve been working on this since the first of January so let’s chop it up and let’s have some fun. Let’s do it!
WF: I assume that few people around here still knew you until your in-ring return in Germany in late last year. Dave Taylor sure was a worthy opponent. How was your match and how was your return to Germany in general?
IT: Well, honestly, it was a great time. I think Dave got better at his older years, it was my pleasure. I was really happy to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in which Otto tried to get me in three years ago and I am the only American to win 3 Bremen cups over there in 94 and 95 and I love Germany. It was my second home I love the people there and I love Schnitzel and I love it. I just love it; it’s a great place.
WF: Are you still an active wrestler or was this a one time deal?
IT: No I’ll be checking out the companies in America over the next three months. I’ll be going out there, lost 50 pounds and I’ll be making my debut real soon one more time. About two more years then I retire
WF: To the long-time fans you are known from your time with CWA, you still know the wrestler parades, fighting in a tent and time-limits, back when you fought about every day. How do you remember this time and earlier opponents like Texas Hawk (JBL), Paul Neu (Cannonball Grizzly / PN News)?
IT: You know I love JBL! I think I’ve been here for the Bremen Cup in 1995 and we had a lot of stiff clothesline matches. Grizzly is one of my good friends he’s a cool dude. Man, we really put in a lot of work together in those three or four years I was there. Finlay and Danny Collins and my mentor Saint Clair – love the beer in the locker room and love the chocolates and flowers.
WF: What are your memories of the nights in trailers, maybe there´s a story in there? I heard there were some very cold nights…
IT: The cold nights was for the jabronies. Baby I’ll always have a warm night cause my heater was on. I just can’t tell you. It was never a cool night – that’s all I can say. I plead the fifth!
WF: Otto Wanz was one of the pioneers of our wrestling scene and often brought stars like André the Giant and Vader among others here. Coming to Austria or Germany, as an American, in the 90s, was that a culture shock? What was our wrestling scene like back then, how far had we been?
IT: Aye, let me tell you something, Wanz was a pioneer in America, AWA heavyweight champion for one or two [months]. A lot of the people have a lot of respect for Otto because he loved the big guys for number one, he was a big guy for number two and he was like a father to me for number three and we had a lot of great experiences. he shared a lot of private moments with me, like a surname.
When I won those 2 cups, explain it to me – hey if you don’t go back to America and then can’t become WCW heavyweight champion, it’s a little pushy. It’s different reasons, it’s not your town and I always respect [him]. All in all he was a great mentor with great balls, always page one time, always get the bonus, man I love me some Otto.
WF: What are your thoughts about Otto Wanz as wrestler and promoter?
IT: Wrestler strong – took a good beating from Vader and from Stan Hanson. Otto’s a tough man, losing the belt to get it back and all of that stuff.
As soon as the promoter he was great because everybody always got a victory. Win or loose it didn’t matter. In the tournament everybody was always important for the tournament and that’s what made Otto a great promoter. He made guys from America feel comfortable, equally comfortable. Everybody was a family. Some nights he could tag good guy against good guy and bad guy with a good guy and put on a good show. You could tell by the last time. It was always sold out.
WF: Thinking back on the time with CWA, Hanover… what is the first thing that comes to mind? What do you remember fondly?
IT: The love that I get from the Europeans as a black man; they always treated me good. they loved me as a baby face and I just think they accepted me and made me feel loved and to this day you can see it. When I was in Hanover I loved it man, they love some Ice Train over there and I appreciate it.
WF: Do you speak any German? (if so, what?)
IT: No because most of the German people spoke English to me and wanted to learn English so I never got to learn Deutch (German).
WF: When you start your career with Dave Taylor, Fit Finlay and Tony St. Clair is there anything that could go wrong?
IT: Well for one I started my career in WCW with Dick Slater, Sergeant Buddy Lee Parker, Ron Simmons and a couple victories against Stone Cold Steve Austin. And then I had the pleasure of three years in the business, to come over there and work with Dave Taylor, Tony St. Clair and Fit Finlay more Tony St. Clair, Dave was only there for one year when I was there.
WF: You originally studied at the University of Michigan and later discovered wrestling. Please tell us about how you got into it and how your career began.
Presumably through a football detour?
IT: Yes I signed out of high school to the University of Michigan.
I was a three time football all American at Central State University in Ohio.
When I got to pro wrestling in 1991 I was technically, probably the world strongest man. I have 1000 pound squat, a 700 pound bench, have about 900 pound deadlift; and Dusty Rhodes, your [white] Pistol Whatley, saw me in the gym dunk the basketball in Indianapolis, Indiana and that’s how I got into pro wrestling.
WF: I often read that you were quite agile for your height and weight, at 6’2ft (1,90m) and around 285lbs (~130kg). Wasn´t that rather “average“ back then? In the 90s wrestlers had to be and have an appearance, right?
IT: For one I was 350 pounds (~160kg) and yeah I was like 350 when I was in Germany. Carried it very well and I was very athletic but WCW didn’t really know how to tap into marketing of how I was but my buddy Big E he is really doing a great job representing the big guys.
WF: What´s your opinion about todays wrestling, the young and often skinny talents?
IT: We just moved into another realm. Everybody is fast and speedy a bunch of high-flying and everybody really looks the same. There’s no different look, everybody’s 225 pounds, skinny and everything but wrestling is still at a great level, even with those because it will go back to the big monsters. Monsters always control wrestling from Brock Lesnar to the Giant. That’s what sells tickets and put asses in seats are the big guys. You know the little-bitty guys do a bunch of high-flying but to have people feel what you are doing you need to slow it down. Learn how to use a crowd. Are you involving the crowd, the people who paid to come and see you involve them in your match?
WF: In the early 90s you signed with WCW. How did you get the name ‚Ice Train‘?
IT: You know what I really botched? That I don’t know why I called myself Ice train to this day. But it has been very hard to redo my name even when I was Mi smooth. So even when I try to do other names ice train still sticks in there. So you know what, Ice train made me a lot of money and it sent me all around the world so choo-choo to that – I gotta love the name until I go!
WF: Would you like to tell us how you came to WCW? Most fans might remember you from your time aside Scott Norton (‚Fire & Ice‘)…
IT: No I was first with WCW as Ice Train when Ollie Anderson was the booker. I went undefeated for my first year. Then Eric Bischoff took over and still learning on the road I would tag team Ron Simmons several times. We did that for about 6 to 7 months.
Then Fire & Ice got together with Scott Norton and I didn’t totally agree with it even though it was great but it was two people with different personalities and they never push the characters. Same opponents every time. With the styles of everyone it could’ve been a better program but it was accepted for the most part. I really enjoyed wrestling when I became Mi Smooth.
WF: For a long time you were undefeated in WCW until Ron Simmons eventually beat you. Did the colour of your skin ever play a role or give you any disadvantages?
IT: That’s such a real question:
for one I should’ve never lost the arm wrestling contest
for two my skin was a major disadvantage in Wrestling but it is what it is you know.
That’s a real question nobody really ever asked me that question, so damn good question but I don’t like to look at it as my skin being a disadvantage.
I just say it was the people in the back and as Sonny Ono told me two weeks ago ‚Some people are more dangerous when they don’t think they are racist but they are.‘ so that’s how I look at that and that’s how I answer your question.
WF: Harlem Heat was one of the most legendary tag teams WCW had ever seen, did you like being a tag team wrestler or did you prefer a run as a singles wrestler?
IT: Well actually me, Too Cold Scorpio and Marcus Alexander Bagwell are 4-0 against the Harlem Heat. So we beat the Harlem Heat four times. Only lost to the Harlem Heat with Fire & Ice. tell me about it how does that happen?
I prefer singles, only team sport i liked was football.
WF: Looking back at who you faced off with… “Steiner Brothers“, “Rock’n Roll Express“… is there an interesting story, an anecdote to share with us?
IT: With the Steiner Brothers it was really fun, lots of political stuff .
I believe Fire & Ice should’ve won the world tagteam championships right off the bat but you know you have the kiss-ass crew.
And the Rock‘n Roll Express was great, Ricky Martin so awesome. God bless they were great workers.
Observed as being one of the best tag teams ever. It would’ve been nice if we could have won a match before going away but they were breaking Fire & Ice up because Me and Norton were just not in a good place with each other. I don’t know what happened but I’m glad they broke Fire & Ice up. It helped me out and helped him too so it was cool.
WF: Do you have a favourite match or favortie opponent? (if so, which/who and why?)
IT: Chris Canyon – all of our matches were great.
WF: When Scott turned on you and sided with the nWo, it was the end of your team and unfortuantely you were seen less and less. From TODAYS perspective would you consider the nWo a blessing or a curse?
IT: The nWo was good because i was still getting them checks. You really couldn’t do nothing with me because I was so athletic. I could do a big leap frog drop kick and moved fast as I could for 350 pounds.
It was just like Teddy Long said in an interview. It was just really ‚I beat Scott Norton three times, never lost, so you want to work with me and want to push to get in a ring with me‘.
I would just go to Japan and go to work but I have no regrets.
In there was nWo a team and nWo b team and i didn’t wanna be on a b team.
WF: Scott Nortan came from Japan, how do you remember him as colleague and tag partner?
IT: Scott norton and me got along good in the ring, we respected each other. We both came from powerlifting so there was a lot of mutual respect. He was about 600 pound bench presser and I was a 700 pound bench presser. He was arm wrestling champ and I was a three time all American college football so we were pretty legit in what we did.
WF: You were seen aside Ernest Miller (who agreed to an interview many times but never answered) for some time. During that time did you never feel the urge to wrestle yourself, did they never think of letting you turn on him and return to being “Ice Train“?
IT: Me and Ernest were friends. We decided that we were never going to wrestle against each other and we didnt care how many times they tried to put us together to turn on each other. To this day we are great friends and we just felt like we werent going to do it because they can find somebody else. We werent going to be the black guys turning on each other like me and Ron Simmons. This is not really true that’s not how we operate as a race and the guys who work together love each other its like booker T and Stevie Ray.
You know, it’s hard to fight against them because those were my brothers but sometimes the higher ups just chose us to work with each other. But it was always mutual respect amongst African-American wrestlers.
WF: Teddy Long – described as rather miserly by the APA (Layfield / Simmons) – was your manager for some time. How do you remember him, did you travel together?
IT: We never traveled together, or maybe once or twice, but Teddy was a great mentor to me, really just a great guy and i really respect him. He is just a hard-working guy who loves pro wrestling and we still talk often at least once or twice a month me and Teddy … he’s an awesome guy.
WF: Do you have a good road story which you´d like to share with the fans?
IT: Yes, Ron Simmons funniest person that I ever travel with. One day we were going to Hardee’s to order some food.
He pulls up, not joking this is how he had to have his burger:
very properly like an English person
‚Do you have the condiments that I need for my burger?‘
Girl on counter said ‚excuse me?‘
he’s like ‚I’ll like a double cheeseburger with a half a slice of cheese, one pickle and ketchup only‘
She said ‚Excuse me?‘
Ron repeats slowly ‚With a half a slice of cheese, one pickle and ketchup only‘
WF: Who had the idea of you as “MI SMOOTH“, Russo? Why were you just a driver and not actively wrestling, were you injured?
IT: No, you didn’t watch the whole promo. The whole thing about Mi Smooth was to show my character. Maybe they didnt show everything in Europe but me and Chris Canyon had some great matches where once that I took 15 chair shots. He broke his own nose in the next week. We’re all kicking and throwing it was a great match. The company closed right after that. Actually I was getting my biggest push, it really came a little too late that’s all i can say. Eric Bischoff gave it to me and I wasn’t supposed to wrestle for a whole year.
WF: After that you weren´t seen with WCW for a while and even got fired once by Eric Bischoff, can you tell us about that? Was there ever any interest in you by WWE, after they took over WCW in 2001?
IT: Well number one – I didn’t get fired by Bischoff i just went to Europe because they couldnt figure out what to really do with me. I wasnt fired.
For number two – I had several opportunities to go to Vince but I have never liked to… I didn’t want to tag with Mark Henry just want to go to develop my character but we could never really come up with the money that was all.
Vince is a good guy we just can never come up with the financial plan that was worth of time.
WF: When did you learn about the end of WCW and the takeover by WWE, were you surprised?
IT: We had heard for a little while at that time. I was getting a place and doing a lot of TV and promos and everything you know.
Vince offered who he wanted to offer. He wanted me to come aboard then cause over the last year I made a comeback because there’s lotta people start calling for me. So that’s why.
He took a few guys out of WCW treated them right and he took a couple guys and dog them out but to each his own.
I appreciate the tenure I had with WCW i have no complaints.
WF: What are you doing nowadays are you still training regularly? Are you still in contact with guys from the old days (if so, with whom)?
IT: I talk to DDP regularly. We do yoga and at least one time per month do autograph sessions. I talk to Brian Clark, text Long, Sonny Ono and Scott Norton. WCW was a family that’s what made us so different from Vince. I facetime with Devon Hughes [D-Von Dudley]. I still talk to a lot of guys, social media keeps us in the loop.
WF: Was there every an idea by the WCW creative team that you rejected (if so, what was it about)?
IT: LOL. LOL. LOL. No Comment.
WF: Let´s say you were given one last big match, who would it be against and why?
IT: Well I have a couple of matches coming up this year – I’ll be on TV probably by wrestlemania. I really couldn’t tell you that because I’m really getting in some of the best shape of my life for one more good year and that’s it.
I left the business really healthy, didn’t really take that many bumps. I don’t have any injuries so I don’t know let’s see who they throw at me. Be looking out I’ll have about 27 inch arms in weighing about 260
WF: We thank you so much for your time and effort, fans will surely be happy to hear from you again! With your about 54 years you are still in tip top shape, we wish you all the best!
IT: Choo-choo choo-choo choo-choo God bless Germany! I love you guys. Thanks for tuning in. Glad we got it done Markus peace my brother.